I share many things with my Dad. Among them, we share the same date of birth (today, July 11th, if you want to mark your calendar). I always used to ask him, “so, seeing as how I was born on your birthday, would you say I’m the best birthday present you ever got?” I asked him that before I was a teenager. When I hit my teen years, and reflecting on how I acted and some of the stunts I pulled throughout high-school and into college, I’m pretty sure the ugly ties, socks, and underwear leap-frogged me on the list of best-birthday-presents.
Ahem. Before I get into the good parts, it should also be noted my Dad and I share a quick temper and sharp tongue. It’s certainly gotten us both in trouble.
However, we also share a love for family, for honesty and integrity, for hard-work, and for kindness. I share these traits with him, but I certainly haven’t achieved his high standards. Maybe that will come with time.
I say these are shared traits, but that’s not true. These standards of behavior were his lifelong birthday presents to me.
Maybe I should have been asking all along, “is my Dad the best birthday present I ever got?”
The true gift my Dad has given me is showing me how a man, a husband, and a father acts. And I can’t thank him enough. Yes, every year he generously gives me a gift card for my birthday, and he bought me a lawnmower once, he gives me Kona coffee from Maui that he orders fresh every few months, and for the past two years he’s taken me to a huge crab leg buffet to celebrate our birthdays …his treat. But those are just presents. The gifts – true gifts – are the gifts I described above (honesty, hard-work, etc) that he’s passed down to me.
We usually get him movie passes or something small, but I hope he knows what I’d really like to give him is a son he’s proud of. And every year on my birthday, I hope he and I can look at the previous year and say, hey, I’m a better version of myself and I’m inching a little bit closer to being just like him.
Maybe he’d rather have a tie or the movie passes. I dunno.
Today, I’m 40. And I have very few regrets. Any regrets I do have usually involve hairstyle choices in the 80s and early 90s – oh, and tight-rolling my jeans …I deeply regret that. The rest of my life, I’d keep it just like it is, mistakes and all, because it made me who I am. For better or worse, the good times and the bad times shape us. I had some bad times – trust me.
Among the other regrets are the regrets of not doing or saying something at certain times. For example, my Mom. She died almost 9 years ago very suddenly. Wouldn’t I have liked to have written a blog entry telling her how special she was to me and how sorry I am for breaking her heart more than she deserved (which should have been zero broken hearts)? Should I have waited to tell the world how much I love her and how great she is only after she died and I delivered her eulogy? And how many eulogies have I given that were heartwarming and touching, and people loved them, but I never told the person how they’ve touched my life?
Is it so hard to turn to someone and say, “hey, Dad, when you see me doing great things, it’s because of you and because you never stopped believing in me and showing me the right way to live and act and how to be a man. Your ability to cast out your demons and vices when I was too young to remember, and never revisit them, is more impressive than almost anything I’ve ever seen anyone do. And because you loved Mom, I know how a husband should act and how deeply he should love his wife. And because you never lied to us kids, ever, I finally grew up and learned to stop lying. And, Dad, I’m sorry for breaking your heart, too many times, because you didn’t deserve to be treated like that.”
Is that so hard? Well, yes, it is hard. But it feels great to say it and maybe turning 40 is going to make me less fearful and more able to say, the hell with it, I’m going to tell everyone how much I love them.
Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.