Monday, January 14, 2013

Dad

This is my Dad, 59+ odd years ago. Today, he turns 60.

Social convention demands that we treat this particular birthday as a milestone. It does, after all, mark the successful completion of yet another decade on this earth. An achievement to be sure - especially with me as your offspring.

To celebrate, my entire family - parents, siblings, husbands and wives of siblings, and kids of siblings - planned to embark upon a Caribbean adventure. But alas, I come from a family of bloody procrastinators. All of us, without exception, left the finding of the dates for our island voyage to the last possible minute. By which point it became impossible to work around the multitude of events and goings-on filling our respective calendars. Because we are extremely busy procrastinators. Nephew is playing in his first hockey tournament. Niece can't miss her provincial mid-term exams. Brother-in-law's parents are coming to town. Sister-in-law has to be back in time for some work-related training. Mom has accounts that she needs to close. Hubby has to be in Toronto at the end of January. I have surgery in February. And so on, and so on, and so on. Getting ten people coming from two cities together for seven uninterrupted days proved to be too complex. Not to mention stressful.

And so, before we descended into a spiral of "Why don't you change your plans, you selfish jerk?" "No, why don't you change your plans, you more selfish jerk?", we made the family decision to postpone the trip until next year sometime, promising that we will NOW agree to and carve out a date for 2014.

(A date which, by the way, has yet to be selected. Stay tuned to this blog next year around this time to see if we actually follow through. My money is on us ending right back in this same place.)

Anyway, ruining my father's dream of having his entire family go on a trip with him has left me feeling quite characteristically Catholic - that is to say, guilty. And so, knowing that my kid brother was heading home to Winnipeg for work last week, I sacrificed the rights to my first born child (which I don't want anyway) to pay for a last-minute ticket. At the very least, Dad could hang out with his three kids for a couple of days. Even if it was here...


instead of here...


Okay, okay, okay. So it's not the same. I get it. But it's the thought that counts, right? And besides. I got him a Kobo and made him a birthday cake.

Sadly, however, he didn't really get to enjoy the surprise visit, the e-reader, or the cake. Because he was sick. Oh so very sick. The missing-work kind of sick. And my Dad never misses work. Ever. So pretty effin' sick. And not just him. My nephew was home from school with a fever. My mother was home from work, too weak to tell me everything that I was doing wrong while making Dad's birthday cake. And by the time I left the 'Peg, my niece and sister were well on their way to succumbing to this pestilence. (Latest reports suggest that my brother-in-law is now confined to his bed.)

Nothing says "Happy 60th, Dad" like a rampant case of the plague.

I feel pretty rotten about the whole darn thing. A less fabulous 60th birthday party you could not plan. Poor Dad... :(

I also feel rather introspective. My Dad is sixty. Sixty. Not very old, I know, but older than he was this time last year. With all the baggage that growing older means. Maybe seeing him so sick had something to do with it, but I've spent much of today coming to terms with the fact that my Dad, who I have hero-worshipped most of my life, is getting older. And able to do just a little bit less than he was the year before.

How depressing! And birthdays - milestone ones or otherwise - should not be about the passage of time. They should be about the celebration of life!

And so, tonight, although he is 2,600 km away, I am raising a glass of red wine in a toast to my Dad, and thanking him...

...for spending countless hours teaching me how to play baseball in our back yard, and then turning around and playing dolls with me on the living room floor.

...for forcing me to learn how to parallel park a 1979 GMC Sierra, with the cap on, so that I can now park any vehicle on any street in any city.

...for letting me spend all of those after-school-hours with him at the grain elevator, where I learned the value of a hard day's work.

...for allowing me to make my own mistakes in life, no matter how painful it might have been to watch.

...for bailing me out when the mistakes were just too big for me to handle on my own, and for not judging me for needing his help.

...for patiently waiting for me to outgrow my awkward teenage years, and for having faith that our relationship would be restored once the hormones settled down.

...for making me fight my own battles instead of taking them on as his own, so that I would learn how to take care of myself.

...for exposing me to the world beyond our backyard, our town, our province, so that leaving the nest when the time came was not as hard as it could have been.

...for the tears that he shed the day I told him that Hubby and I were getting married, which I know he will never admit to, but I know they were there.

...for always making me look up every word that I could not spell on my own in the dictionary, so that I would learn to rely on myself before relying on others.

...for being my Dad, which I know was not always easy. But I know that I am a better person because of him, so I hope it was worth it.

I love you Dad. Here's to many, many more years as father and daughter.

And more importantly, here's to a plague-free, Caribbean-based 61st birthday.

1974. Mom and Dad on their wedding day. Look at those 'burns! 

Tuckered out after playing dolls with his girls.

My high school graduation in 1994. (Oh, those glasses...)

First-time, and proud, Grandpa, after the birth of my niece 

Hanging out on Christmas Eve

Finally getting rid of me... (Side-bar - look closely at the dress. It's the same one Mom wore in 1974)