For my sixth birthday my parents gave me a shiny blue Schwinn. The other memory of that birthday is Ohio received its first snowfall of the season. A special treat “just for you,” Dad said, but it put the skids on taking my new bike out for a ride. Yet that didn’t deter him. “Here, you can ride it around inside.” I climbed onto the seat and he guided me around the back room/laundry room. It was large and open enough for a wide loop and a tight figure-eight. As the bike and I wobbled, the training wheels alternated a quick kiss on the linoleum. Dad was as giddy as I was over the present and the chance to ride a bike inside the house.
Today is another first, memorable birthday – the first without my Dad, who passed away in July. This is not a melancholy post. Dad would have none of that. But it is bittersweet because for the first time in several years I won’t answer the phone and hear him play Happy Birthday on his harmonica.
I’ve posted one of my favorite pictures of us several times on FB and here – we’re sitting together at a local softball game. I always knew I favored his side of the family, but in that photo I see just how much. So for this post I’m using two others, ones I’d forgotten but re-discovered as I gathered photos for his memorial video.
This one is from my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding almost 10 years ago. I love how Dad is looking right at me, or as he came to refer, “my undivided attention.” That was an important message he kept insisting upon in his last weeks. That we take time to visit, really listen, give people our undivided attention. When I came across this picture I realized how often he did just that.
This is a more recent picture, maybe two years old? Dad was always one for a joke, a good laugh – even at his own expense – a fun time. Again, in the weeks before he died he was insistent on another message, that love was all that mattered. I’m not sure he ever realized how truly big his heart was, but in this picture I see his love and joy.
So while it’s my birthday, I celebrate half of the team that made this day possible. And now it’s time to go to my phone and play an old message I’ve saved, because nobody plays Happy Birthday on the harmonica like my Dad.