Happy Birthday Dad.
Today, January 5th, you would be 77 years old. It’s hard to believe you’ve been gone for 20 years.
Twenty years since I’ve seen you, touched you, heard your voice, and smelled your Old Spice aftershave rubbed over your clean-shaven face.
I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that I don’t think about you and miss you.
In fact I thought about you constantly over the holidays, remembering your generosity at Christmas and the way you reached out to so many people.
I thought of you stopping at the rest homes to visit your “old gals” and how you always gave them a little Christmas treat like a carton of chocolate milk from your milk truck.
When I stood at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning, I remembered how you always went into the living room first to see whether Santa came and left presents while we were sleeping.
I remembered the many Christmas mornings that we waited a little longer to see our Santa loot because you had to run a few secret errands and drop off some Christmas eggnog and other dairy surprises to some customers you knew needed a little something extra.
I always try to honor you and your legacy of giving.
This year we helped throw a Christmas party for families living in a homeless shelter. As we were serving food and watching happy kids play with new toys, I remembered how much fun it was to help you prepare for Santa’s arrival in town. I remember filling brown paper bags full of treats for Santa to give the kids. And remember when you had him land in a helicopter right in the middle of town?
This year we had Santa come to our Christmas Eve party. We couldn’t arrange for the town fire trucks to bring him or a helicopter, but it was still magical.
(He looked surprisingly like Doug…)
One of my favorite Christmas traditions was when you came home from Jaycee meetings and told us about our “Sub for Santa” family. You told us their ages and interests and what they wanted for Christmas and then we all bustled around trying to provide them with the best Christmas possible.
There were a few days over the holidays that I ached to see you. I wanted you to see my beautiful daughters, your granddaughters. Oh, you would be so proud of them.
Annie told me she’s always felt bad she didn’t get to meet you. “He’ll be the first person I look for in heaven,” she said. I told her she wouldn’t be disappointed.
Dad, you have such a beautiful family. Over Thanksgiving weekend, we managed to gather the entire family together for a family photo. We haven’t had one taken since just after you died.
I framed it and put it on the wall across from my desk so that I could see it all the time. There are a lot of miracles represented in that photo. I look at each person and marvel over their story, their life and challenges.
Reluctantly, mom is sitting front and center. She hates having her picture taken and did it under duress. In fact, we asked the photographer to trick her and zoom in on her in our group photo to get one of her alone because she refused to pose by herself.
I watched “Parenthood” last night and the dad, Zeke, wanted all of his children and grandchildren to go on a road trip together to celebrate his aging mother’s birthday. When they all finally arrived, he told his mother why it was so important for him to get his family there to see her.
He said when he heard she hurt her hip, “I suddenly thought, geez I have to get those kids up there. Ma, they are the best thing I have done with my life, and I wanted you to see that.”
Zeke’s eyes filled with tears when he talked about his family, and his mother replied, “They are beautiful.”
Dad, when I look at this family photo, I think that your family is the best thing you and mom have done with your life.
And, yes, we are beautiful too.
Families are an accomplishment, and we are yours.
In fact, our family is an amazing accomplishment, because we are a family of survivors.
Dad, we have all come so far. I know you know all of this because even though I can’t see you and have a face-to-face conversation, it only makes sense to me that you are still part of our family in a more real way that we know.
Happy Birthday dad.
I miss you. We all miss you.
I hope we are your greatest achievement because we’re sure trying.