A Birthday Call
If Dad was still around, I imagine I would have called him up tonight to wish him a happy birthday. Today would’ve been his 99th birthday. Not such an unlikely proposition, since, after all, his Mom lived to 101, and his older sister, Aunt Lalie, just died last year at age 100. But, alas, prostate cancer struck him down at 77, 21 ½ years ago.
It was a phone call I made to him, I think for his 75th birthday, that took our relationship to a whole different, and unexpected, level. A good friend of his, Paul McCarthy, had just recently died. Paul was much younger than Dad, 49 I think he was. Paul had once worked for Dad. He was a man with a lot of debilitating ailments, who’d had to take a disability retirement early, and was barely living for a few years, he was so ill.
He’d come to the congregation that Dad and Mom had recently joined, and it had inspired him to really start living again. Dad described to me how Paul had really come out of his self-imposed shut-in life, and lived his last year of life. Sadly, a fatal heart attack cut his time short — but, at least he had really lived that last year.
As Dad described his friend Paul, and the congregation that they had belonged to, I quickly realized how in tune his and my spiritual approaches had become. Kathy and I began going to the same congregation, and almost immediately felt right at home, there.
Dad and I grew very close his last two years, which saw our relationship transform from father-son, to good friends. After all the years of uneasiness between us, those two years were such a gift. I had finally come to appreciate him for who he was, and he seemed to feel the same about me.
All of that grew out of a simple Happy Birthday phone call. Today is the 22nd birthday that has passed that I could not pick up that phone to call him to wish him happy birthday.
But, then — who needs a damn phone? (He always said, if we called, he would be there.) I call him every year on his birthday — as well as, many other times through the year. Hey, it took me too many years to develop a decent relationship with the man — I’m not going to let something stupid, like death, put an end to it!
Happy Birthday, Dad!