My dad was never one to forget a special occasion. Even when it was completely out of synch with modern society, he bought each and every one of his six daughters, as well as my mother, a wrist corsage to wear each Easter. My mother received a dozen yellow roses for each of her 62 wedding anniversaries because that’s what she carried down the aisle when they got married. Oops—make that 61. On the first anniversary, their paper anniversary, my father said they “didn’t have two nickels to rub together.” He bought her a roll of toilet paper—and thank God she laughed about it.
Not one of those men who balked at Sweetest Day or Valentine’s Day as a “fake” holiday, he happily (no duty involved) brought home stuffed animals, chocolate—whatever he thought would make my mother smile.
Yesterday would have been my father’s 88th birthday, had he been here. He died last year. I remember watching him blow out his candles last March and making him a special birthday dinner. I knew yesterday would be tough for me because special occasions were always such a big deal to him.
My son and I had a long day, wrapping up an out-of-town chess tournament and driving home. My sister had posted a photo of my dad and her on Facebook. They were on an airfield, one of his favorite places. He used to love to tell stories of training in the Army Air Corps during World War II. It just made me teary and I missed him all the more. He was so real in that photo. It was a stark contrast to the emptiness of the day. I was wishing he’d been there to cheer my son on. Wishing I could hear him tell one more horribly corny joke. Wishing I could hear him say, “I love you, Peanut” to me.
At the end of the day, I for some odd reason decided to clean the garbage out of my car—something I usually avoid with fervor. With two boys, it’s amazing the wrappers, etc. that can accumulate. As I reached into the driver-side door, I felt a small metal object. There, amidst the flotsam and jetsam, a treasure. A shell casing from my father’s funeral, which had been done in military style, replete with Taps and a gun salute. The casing had been given to my sons nine months ago. I swear we’d had it in a safe place since then. But, here it was, in my hand.
To those of you without faith, this will sound like the ravings of someone who wants something very badly and rationalizes to make it so. To those of you who know in your heart like I do, it’ll be what it is. At the end of the day, his day, my father had found a way to tell me that my sadness was unwarranted. That he was still here, with me. That all I have to do is turn within, away from the world, and be still to feel his love.
On his birthday, he’d given me a gift. How like him.