Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 31st

On this day, in 1933, my father was born. Throughout my life, my dad was the source of comfort and affection. He ran a small Luncheonette, my home base for all of my childhood adventures.

I remember his voice booming down the cul-de-sac where my friends lived. He would call for me whenever I was late or avoiding responsibilities. He yelled a lot.

In our house, my dad had his chair, a hideous recliner that smelled of cooking grease and sweat. It was where my father would fall asleep whenever the television was on. Sometimes his snores drowned out the dialogue. He sat in that chair, cradling my infant son, rocking and humming softly. Ba-ba-do, ba-ba-do.

The worst thing my father could say to me was, "I'm disappointed in you." When he uttered those words, I was inwardly crushed, though my cold adolescent exterior defied my inner pain.

Nearly every weekend, he would wake up at 3:30 in the morning to accompany me to the barn. I would braid horses in the dawn. Once it was light, he brought me breakfast. He would not leave until others arrived. At the horse shows, he sat in his lawn chair and read the newspaper. He hated the monotony, but was there every time.

My dad loved my mother with a purity and strength I have never seen. They fought like petty children, and their ambitions were severely mismatched, but my dad had hitched his heart to my mother's star in the second grade and never let go.

He taught me how to fight cancer. He faced his disease with dignity and optomism. Every time his body failed him, he simply kept going. Until he could go no more. Even then, he died quietly, holding his life-long best friend's hand until she gave him permission to go. My sister and I were not invited to that leave-taking. We'd already said our goodbyes. He was 60 years old.

On what would have been his 70th birthday, I was struggling with my own cancer. I had had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma and some lymph nodes. It was a rainy day, my arm was swathed in bandages and an Outback coat, as I marched up and down the driveway with my horse. That evening, I said goodbye to a beloved friend.

I like to think my dad was waiting for him.

Happy Birthday Dad.

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