Happy Birthday Dad!Today is my father's 70th birthday. Here is a tribute of sorts to the man he was and is: He was the kind of man who always filled up the car for my mom if he knew she was driving somewhere the next day. He was the kind of dad that would let us punch holes in the doors to learn to skateboard, or rip the wallpaper to learn to ride the unicycle. He always said to my mom, Maxine, we can replace anything in this house but we can't replace these kids....which was always a great out when we had broken the plate glass window or backed the car into the basketball pole.
He worked extraordinarly hard his entire life--wore himself out, quite literally. By the time he was 13 he was farming his own 60 acres and to prepare for the first year of his marriage he raised 100 chickens and traded fifty of them to his mother for 50 cans of green beans and that's what they ate for an entire year--with a few of my mom's famous pies thrown in. He put himself through college and medical school taking full loads and working almost full time.
When he was younger he was a rebel of sorts--nothing too radical because he was first and foremost a man devoted to duty--but enough to shake things up wherever he went. Asking hard questions. Giving unexpected answers. Took his family off to East Africa for 3 1/2 years--and almost died because of it (malaria). Then came back to Texas and settled in.
When I was in Junior High he was the informant. Everything anybody wanted to know about sex, I asked him and he'd answer, in his very dry, medical way and I would report back to my friends. Finally, one day he asked, Why are you asking so many questions? So the inquiry ceased, but it was fun while it lasted. We learned more in those two weeks than we learned in an entire semester of Sex Education.
When I was in college things got more challenging. He questioned my decisions. Our bond was cracked a bit by my bad choices. But time heals things and as I entered my twenties and began one of the darkest periods of my life, he too struggled. In journeying through clinical depression together, we understood one another in ways that the rest of the family could not.
When the love of my life broke my heart, he and my mother came out to take care of me. His sage advice about men has always been: It's better not to marry than to marry a bum. If only I had learned not to date bums either! When my first love broke my heart, he said, I always thought you couldn't trust a man who would leave his woman and his dog. Ha!
My dad, much to a lot of people's surprise, is very funny. He's so quiet and sometimes stern, so unless you listen carefully, you'll miss it. But when he's telling a story, you can't. He leans forward, goes into the story telling mode and then laughs so loud that it almost shocks you, then he sits back and may not say another word all evening. He's still got it. When he came out to visit me here in New Mexico, my roommate's name was Suraj. He replied very dryly, I hope I don't call you sewage. Suraj reminded the other day how funny she thought he was.
He and my mom now live on the lake that we went skiing on every summer. They built their fantasy house for more than 20 years in their minds, and now they're living in it. Time and illness have slowed him down some, but the man he is remains: good, kind, generous, loving, strong, devoted, with a little bit of the trickster still in him.
He's getting a new lounger for his birthday--Hope you enjoy your new cozy chair! Keep me updated on Monday Night Football. And have the best day ever Dad!