Happy Birthday, Dad
Big raves in a big-lump-in-my-throat-kind-of-way to my Dad on what would
have been his 81st birthday today, August 25, 2006. He died suddenly at age 44 of a brain
aneurysm on a snowy, early winter Veteran's Day with howling winds that I still can
sometimes feel and hear.
It's hard to imagine what my dad would have looked like older or old, since he didn't
have a gray hair and always looked even younger than he was. I'd like to think that we
would have got along as adults as well as we did when I was a kid. He was a laid back,
easy going man who just didn't ever raise his voice in anger. He was everyone's friend.
That was so apparent to even 10-year-old me at the funeral home, when his grown up
friends came by and sobbed and cried loudly because he was gone.
My parents loved each other madly and genuinely respected one another to no end. They
were impressive role models as a couple because they never fell out of love and never
stopped being best friends. Some of my friends' parents, who were like distant strangers
in the same house, weren't like my mom and dad at all.
Considering that Dad's mother was always sick and then died when he was 5, that he had
an evil step mother almost immediately on the scene and a spineless, so spineless Old
World dad who gave away his three little boys to their mother's sister to raise so he could
start a new family, it's amazing that Dad and his two brothers thrived and got beyond
their early childhood traumas as they did, even with far, far better role models in their
aunt and uncle and cousins who acted as siblings.
I think that he and I started that whole "Take Your Daughter to Work Day" thing in the 1960s. I loved tagging along with him to work, going roller skating
with him and staring down with sheer contempt all the older high school girls who shamelessly flirted with him. And I liked rooting him on when he played on
his softball and bowling leagues.
He should've been there when I got married, when I told mom after 16 years of trying that I was pregnant, when I had their only grandson, when I realized my
perfect little boy had Autism, when I left my husband last year and all the days in between. He should've been there, too, for my brother and my mom over the
years, because they had the same missing piece in their lives as I did in mine. I have many precious memories of him, but still would've liked to have had quite
a few million more.
So on what would have been his 81st birthday today, I raised a toast and drank a bottle of his brand Yuengling beer. I looked through old pictures and decided
that I probably could have swayed him, at least by the late 1980s, to switch to a better beer. I decided also that Mom probably would've got on his nerves, too, in
But finishing the bottle, I knew that Dad would have always looked the same to me as he did the last time I saw him, smiling and saying goodnight in 1969,
even if he were still here at age 81.