January 27, 1933. That’s the day my dad was born. In a hospital somewhere in Colorado Springs, my grandparents welcomed their fifth child into the world.
My dad would have been 81 years-old today. He passed away almost 10 years ago, and I can’t help but wonder what he would think of today’s times. In many ways, my father was a simpleton. A stereotypical blue collar man, he was both amazed by advances in technology yet at the same time not very impressed. Whenever I would introduce him to something new – I always think back to how he reacted to volume control buttons on a steering wheel – my father would respond with a very canned and dorky, “that’s cool, man.” I never could figure out if it was a flicker of whatever small, child-like innocence remained in him, or his coy way of being sarcastic.
I sit and contrast both our lives. How different my life as a grown man (allegedly) is from his. I’m weeks away from turning 41, and I have a son in middle school and a daughter in high school (whom I swear is itching today to move off to college). At 41, my my dad had two toddlers from his second marriage. Call me selfish, but I can’t imagine being my age and having to deal with baby stuff, especially in an era of non-disposable diapers.
I think about how my dad would drive me every weekday to football practice. I had no appreciation for that level of commitment, both in time and money. I have no idea what he did to pass the time while I sweated away on the fields. I don’t know what he did to entertain himself all those hot, Fall afternoons in Miami. What I do know is that he did it selflessly because he knew how much I loved playing football.
I contrast it to my life now, and it’s such a crazy juxtaposition. Now I’m the one that is shuttling my kids back and forth to practice. Except, I’m killing time by sitting in my air conditioned car, composing this blog post on my Samsung Chromebook, while connected to the Internet via my mobile phone, while listening to Mozart Piano Quartet #1 on satellite radio. I think my father’s head would have exploded if I tried to explain that all to him (although I think he would’ve been very proud about the classical music part).
I can’t believe it’s been nearly a decade since my father was called home to Heaven. I remember the pain of the first couple of days following his passing. The notion of how surreal it was to no longer have him around. Now, although I still ache for his companionship and I still long to have one more conversation with him, I also know that he is with me always. He’s with me in the wisdom he imparted and the lessons he taught me when I was a child. He’s with me in my interactions with my kids. In many ways, I’ve become him: the stubborn and thick-headed man who is really a push-over deep down inside.
I used to look back at the absence brought by my father’s death and feel only sorrow. Now I look back and feel gratitude for the great fortune of having that man as my father. I look at the blessing it is to have the parents I have, and hope that someday my kids will feel the same way about me.
Thanks for laying the foundation you did with me, dad, and for directing me to be the man I am today. You are forever missed, and I am forever thankful to you and to mom. Happy birthday, dad. I love you.