Yesterday should have been my father's 90th birthday; in June he'll have been gone 34 years. How is that even possible?
Several times during the day, I thought about making some commemorative post, or changing my profile picture to his photo on Facebook, but then I didn't - because honestly, do I need attention that badly? Should I just hang a sign around my neck that says "it's all about me, really!"?
But here's what's on my mind - this is the kind of man Tom Brokaw wrote about in The Greatest Generation. Quiet and unassuming, he gave an extraordinary part of his body and soul in WWII, and yet throughout my life, he acted as though it was no big deal, it was just the right thing to do, If anyone had referred to him as a hero, he would have laughed himself silly. He was just doing what he was supposed to do.
He never told us any stories about the day he was injured, or any of the days that lead up to it, for that matter. The only story I remember being told was about the German POW who was in the same hospital with him, when he came home to heal. They played checkers together every day (at least in my memory of the story it was every day). Neither ever learned the other's language - they just played checkers. He spent a year in that hospital. The summer before my eighth grade year, we took a family vacation, drove from Minnesota to Salt Lake, and right to the end of the driveway of the hospital where he recovered from losing his legs. We sat at the end of the driveway, didn't even go up to the building... and then we drove away. I don't know why.
I'm a day late, but... here's to you, Daddy. I know you loved me, and later, my children, unconditionally, though you never spoke the words. I actually remember being embarrassed at being loved so unconditionally, but I sure do appreciate it now. You thought I could do anything from help you milk 32 cows (at age 8!) to lower you on a rope from the roof - and I usually had to do it in a dress. I can't help but think of how you would have loved your tiny flock of great-granddaughters. Can you believe it? All girls...
Saturdays, early morning, were the best. I remember listening to you whistling and singing, as you rolled around the kitchen, warming up the first pot of coffee of the day. I drink my coffee the same way you did - just cream, no sugar. Some Saturdays we'd take a ride, just the two of us, and you'd stop at some small town drugstore and give me a $1 bill and tell me to go in and get two "drumsticks" from the freezer. You always made me fold the dollar to fit in the palm of my hand so no one would see it and snatch it away, and always reminded me to count my change. I miss you blasting Waylon, and Johnny Cash, but I still think you sang the best of all.
You loved taking me for car rides. Of course, there was the time one of your sisters came to town for a visit, and you thought we should have wine. We never had alcohol of any kind in the house, and I was only 10 or so... we took a ride to a liquor store just off West Broadway, not the best part of town even then. You told me to lock my door, then you rolled down the window and gave one of the shady characters a $5 bill and asked him to go in and get you a bottle of wine. That Mogan David sat in the refrigerator for years.
I think of you every day, especially since moving west, the place you always wanted to be. Watching the farm behind us put up hay is an emotional experience... Oh, one more thing... thanks for the hummingbirds, and the Elvis song.
It isn't all about me... it's about him, and the others like him who never expected any recognition throughout their too short lives. Too little, too late...but Happy Birthday, Daddy.