An open letter to my dad on his Birthday

Dear Dad,

It’s weird to call you that, for so many years we called you grandpa for the kids, and before that, I would introduce you as my father but generally always called you Chuck. Now that you’re gone and to save a lot of time explaining things I just call you my dad.

Anyway, Happy Birthday! Today you would have been 80 years old – twice my age this year, I’m not sure if that’s a big milestone or not in the scheme of life but it’s one that’s always interesting to me, it’s this little reminder of how old you were when I was born and a small comparison of where someone is in their life vs. where you were in your own life at that time. But I’m getting off topic.

I miss you! Everyday! I thought I wouldn’t so badly after a few years, but really every day still. It’s not the gaping emptiness anymore at least, I’ve moved into a dull ache from time to time and a nostalgic twinge most days. I hear your all consuming laugh when I find something horrible (and usually off color) amusing, and your quite “hey, babe” when I would call the house. And it’s not just all the big things that you’ve missed, but all the small things I want to share with you. I started planting the garden the other day and realized I wanted to put in pear tomatoes and immediately thought about you. How else would I have known about them? We just sent Francesca off to her Junior Prom and took pictures in front of your house, and I thought about you. Lenten services stared at church and soup supper and I thought about you. How is it after so many years of you being gone I still find you so close to me in every small aspect of my life?

Mom mentioned you the other day while we were getting a pedicure, she’s up at Maria’s today and wanted to make sure she marked the occasion with her. I told her to try not to make a big deal about it, of course, we both know she’s not going to listen. She was waxing on about your 80th and that it was a big deal, it was about then that I realized we’ve sainted you in some ways. We’ve rewritten history and your personality to fit into our ideas of the way you should have been and felt about things. You hated your birthday! I don’t know if you hated getting older of just the idea of a birthday to begin with but started a few weeks before your big day you would grump and fuss and make life hell for the people around you until after it passed. I think about everyone coming over to the house for pictures before Frannie’s prom and you would have hated that too, all the fuss, all the people at your house that you didn’t know, all the noise and they walking on your lawn and screwing up the parking in the street. It would have driven you crazy! And even though I know deep in my gut had you been there you would have stressed mom and I out to no end. I still missed and wanted you there.

I want to walk into the house for dinner tonight, because Friday nights were for family dinners, and bring you cheese and beer to snack on while you’re cooking dinner. I want to sit on that stool and tell you about the crappy day I had at work, the new book I’m reading or hear a story about something you did this week that was of interest to you. I want to sit down at the table for dinner with our family and eat a steak that’s just a little too rare for me, adding salt and believing it will cure the meat just enough to kill remaining bacteria. I want to hear the fighting from the kids at each other while they vie for your attention to tell you all about their days, I want the most mundane boring meal anyone’s every imagined just once more because I really don’t remember the last one we had. I have snippets in my head of different moments but I cannot for the life of me remember when we all sat together and shared a meal and talked. I’m sure had I know it would be the last time we spoke like that I would have tried to remember it more clearly.

Don’t get me wrong, life did continue for us, the kids got older, our hearts healed, dogs were rescued, jobs were lost, people got married, and split up, babies were born. I have lived an excellent life since you died, some because of you, some in spite of you, but I did still live. Sabrina graduated from high school, she got a job and moved out. She’s loved and been loved, and she’s had her heart broken more times than I’d like to count. She continues to amaze me in ways I didn’t know possible. Francesca has grown up, school and sports and boys now run her life, she moved in with mom this last year just to keep her company and to start growing on her own away from her parents. Mom? Well, mom is living, we’ve had our ups and downs, as the years progress more ups than downs. We’ve all had to learn to live our lives differently but eerily still the same – if that makes any sense. It’s a little like faking it until you make it, and then realizing you’re there.

So tonight when I get off of work, I’m going to pick up some good stinky cheese, open a bottle of wine, cook up a nice medium rare steak (the way I like it) and toast to you and the bottle of beer you left the last time you were over. Yes, its still sitting on my kitchen shelf and yes I still talk to it like it’s you when I cook. And that will be it! No pomp and circumstance, no major fuss, just some good food, some good drink and hopefully some good conversation with the hubby, just the way you would have liked it.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

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