Sunday, October 23, 2011

Happy birthday, Dad

We recently gathered back home to celebrate my dad's birthday. It was a great occasion for a great man. His friends, children, grandchildren, sister and friends came to celebrate.

I have always been a daddy's girl. Growing up with 5 older brothers, I needed to be. He made sure I felt special. I got to watch him shave on Sunday mornings before church. I went to the office with him on Saturdays. Every year, we went shopping for my new winter coat. He skied with me on the bunny hills because he knew I was afraid of the chair lift. He held my poles for me and let me wait until a chair came around that matched my coat. When I was 15 my mom passed away and he had a new role to fill - mother to 6 children. Suddenly he had to learn how to grocery shop, cook and deal with a teen age girl with no reinforcements or backup. He worked full time. He rearranged his travel schedule to be home more. He hosted slumber parties for my friends. He went prom dress shopping with me. Note to all fathers - bad idea. He wanted me to wear a burka. I wanted to dress like a Vegas showgirl. We found a compromise. Whenever possible, he brought me on his trips. He made sure we visited all my brothers at college. Everyone came home for every holiday. He planned vacations for us. He drove us all to college. We each got a calling card so we could call him or each other anytime. If one of us was unlucky enough to be in a fender bender, his only question was if we were all right. He wasn't perfect. For example, he is the last person to go to for dating advice as a teenage girl. His advice always involved me sitting home in a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. If I came to him with a problem, he listened and offered good advice. Not that I always took it. I was a teenager and knew it all. Now, I live a state away and talk to him every day. I call to tell him funny stories about the kids and keep him up to dat on our lives. As a grandfather, he attends every baptism, First Communion and graduation. He visits as often as he is invited.

This weekend, Sara had a choice about how to spend Friday. She choose breakfast at my dad's house and spending the day with him (no mom or brother around to interfere). Those two are quite the duo. She asks a million questions and he answers them all. He listens to her with 100% attention. He is completely and utterly unable to say no to her. If its legal and safe, he will let her do it. Sometimes I cannot believe the things she has conned him into. They have a special tree they share. Each visit, she insists they visit 'The Sara and Grumpy Observing Tree' and no one else can come. She waters all his plants. They play checkers and she shows him her journal. Then she has to jump on his bed and hide notes for him around the house. As kids, we were never even allowed in our parent's bedroom much less sit or jump on their bed. Different rules for different generations is his defense/excuse. Each accomplishment or milestone reached warrants a call to him. Each time, he reacts like the grandkids have discovered gravity or cured cancer and Alzheimer's. You have never seen a grown man be so impressed with a child who used the potty for the first time. We potty trained Sara by promising she could call Grumpy every time. He took each call with appropriate delight. It make me wonder what his secretary thought. Until we moved to Indiana, the kids and I had weekly lunches with him. As a result, my father probably knows my kids as well as I do. He knows their moods, likes and dislikes, favorite foods and toys. He sends postcards from every trip and cards for every occasion and holiday. Sara keeps them in a special box called her "things that make me happy box".

When my kids know he is coming over, they perch at the dining room window and wait impatiently. My son spends three days after a visit looking all over our house for him. It's the saddest game of hide-and-seek ever.

At the party this weekend, several people gave toasts. My oldest brother talked about what an amazing father and family man my dad is. From him we learned the value and importance of family. His colleagues spoke about what a well respected attorney he is. His friends talked about their long friendship. If you asked my father to describe himself in a few words they would be -father, grandfather, brother and friend. From his example. I hope my kids learn that family is forever. Family comes first. Be there for the people in your life. Because of his example, I have friends in my life that I have known since I was 4. I hope I spoil my grandkids as rotten as he spoils his.

Happy birthday, Dad.

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