Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today is my father's birthday. In a couple of months, it will have been two years since he passed away. He would've been 63 years old, which is a number I still have a little bit of trouble with when thinking about how much more time he should've had to enjoy.

Looking back at what I wrote a year ago, it's interesting (at least to me) to note what has and hasn't changed during that period. Time has certainly given me an opportunity to cope and reflect. The disbelief - for the most part - isn't as strong. The anger that I felt has faded.

But they're not entirely gone. I see how my mother looks at older couples who are spending that part of their lives together, and I can see how strongly she feels that loss in those moments. I'm sure she feels it more often than she'll ever let me know, no matter how much I try to help her, but she manages to hide it. Yet I can also see how far she's come, how healthily she's recovered from her grief, and that makes me feel better about things.

Sometimes, I think about how I've grown apart from my father's side of the family - especially in recent months - and wonder what he would think of that. Would he be disappointed in me? Would he think I should try harder? Would he be able to help me deal with the anger I feel? Would he understand why I've acted the way I have?

I tried to bring up the subject of doing something for Dad's birthday with my mother, but I could tell it just made her sad, so I dropped it. I'm sure she'll want to do something in his memory, but I can also understand that most any gesture - no matter how well intentioned - might feel empty.

I also talked with my sister about it last night, and of course, nothing seems big enough or special enough. But as we did last year, we'll try to do something true to his spirit. He always tried to give whenever he could. So my sister will make a donation to Dad's church. I should say to "our" church, but it hasn't felt that way in a long time - even before his death. But that place meant a lot to him, so if we can do something to help in my father's name, I think he'd be okay with that.

Once again, I'll be making a donation to WEMU, a radio station my father really loved. Maybe he loved it too much, judging from all the pledge requests we've been getting recently. But he did give them a tremendous amount of support because he enjoyed everything their staff and programming offered, so if I can continue that - even in some small way - I think that'd make him happy.

Last year, I had the idea to eat hot dogs for dinner because it was often Dad's guilty pleasure meal of choice. Even if he had the option to eat anything else, if it was left up to him (and he really had to go out), more often than not, he'd opt for a place he could score a chili dog. But having dinner with my mother at a Coney Island felt a little bit strange, so I don't know if we'll do that this year. She won't come right out and say it, but I can tell she's thinking, "You know, he liked steak, too. Why don't we have a steak?" So maybe I'll have the hot dog for lunch.

Regardless, my father will be on my mind today, and I'll do what I can to commemorate his birthday. I don't know if it'll be enough. It probably never will be. I just hope it feels right.

Happy Birthday, Dad.