Today would be my dad’s 68th birthday.
For the second year in a row, I woke up around midnight, looked at my phone and saw the date and couldn’t go back to sleep.
At first I felt sorry for myself, threw a little pity party because I knew I’d wake up in the morning and wouldn’t be able to wish my dad a happy birthday.
I started to think about all the things he’s missing out on right now. Tonight his oldest grandson will play a baseball game on his birthday, and he’ll do it wearing his Pampy’s old football number.
I thought about how proud he’d be of that same grandson who has followed in his Pampy’s footsteps with his love of music, playing every musical instrument he can get his hands on.
I thought about how he’d love that Logan’s passion for football is almost as big as his was. Logan’s not the biggest kid on the field, that’s for sure, but he doesn’t let his lack of size get the better of him against a bigger kid.
I thought about how much my dad would love Jared. He only had a short time to get to know Jared, but he definitely left his mark on him. The way Jared has that sly little smile when you catch him doing something wrong. The way you just can’t get mad at Jared because he’s going to do something to make you laugh.
I thought about how proud he’d be of my mom, how she’s been so strong in his absence and she’s even getting her hands dirty in his shop. He’d probably be telling her she’s doing it all wrong, but she’s doing it anyway and she’s inherited his gift of woodworking.
I thought about how happy he’d be for my brother, who has found someone that can match his heart of gold step for step. And how proud he’d be of my brother for also picking up my dad’s desire to build things.
I thought about how he’d go out of his way to make my wife (his favorite daughter-in-law as he’d say) happy. I thought about how he’d pick on her and she’d pick right back at him.
Before I realized it, my pity party turned into a cherishing of memories.
I started to think about family vacations, how I took those for granted and never really fully appreciated them until now. I can remember our trips to AstroWorld. How he convinced me to ride the Serpent (my first roller-coaster), then when I conquered that, he said “Let’s get on Excalibur.”
And before I knew it, I was in line to ride the giant, the icon of AstroWorld — Texas Cyclone. I could hear the creaking of the boards and hear the screeching of the wheels as we turned every corner.
I remember getting off the ride, my knees still shaking to the point of it being hard to walk, and looking up at his face, beaming with pride.
Like our family trips to Disney World, those trips to AstroWorld were as much for him as the Disney World trips are for me. But he wanted to share those moments with us, just as I want to share those moments with my boys.
As I thought about all those memories, it reaffirmed to me that I’ve had a good life. And it was because my dad and my mom sacrificed so much to make sure we had a good life. I like to believe that lesson has rubbed off on my wife and I as we try to make sure our kids have those lasting memories.
It reminds me of something I saw a few days ago when I was stressing out about not having a full-time job: “Money is temporary but memories last a lifetime.”
So, on days like today, when I’m missing my dad and I just want to call him and hear his voice again, I have those memories to fall back upon.
And if I close my eyes and try really hard, all those memories bring him back to life for a brief moment.
Happy Birthday dad! Love you and miss you. Thanks for everything.