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February 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad! And Many More!

J. D. Hulse

I’ve been putting off the phone call for a couple of days now. My brother called to tell me that a party was happening for my dad’s birthday and unfortunately, I can’t make it due to work.


I have been struggling for a while with my relationship with my father and mother. It certainly hasn’t been the worst, but it could have been better. 


I used to think how different we were, he being a blue collar, outdoors, kind of guy, and me that creative artsy type. But after leafing through some old photos, and some memories, I realized we not only look alike, but we are alike in so many ways. 


It’s been a long time since I told my dad how much I value him. As a matter of fact I don’t think I EVER said that.  Being the baby of the family I had several responsibilities: being protected by my older brothers; being cute and getting away with everything, and only because all my other siblings did it all first. .


My parents were either too tired or didn’t care what I did. I vote for the first choice. I have to be honest here, we were, no are, a good group of people who, like the rest of the world, have made a few bad (okay, really bad depending on how you look at it) choices with our lives.


Therapy sometimes encourages us to blame everything on our mothers, but we forget about the often silent influence in our lives, Dad.  I find this trait - silence - very much in me. He grew up during the Great Depression, something he doesn’t often talk about.


He had a brother who died as an infant. He served in WWII. He had a mother that he moved in next door on his own recently-purchased land when he was starting his own family. He worked for the same company for at least 25 years, if not more, and every day got out of bed before the sun was up to head off to work.


Something he doesn’t often talk about. He has served as church custodian as long as I have been alive; helped with the local food bank; did anonymous works in the name of GOD (okay, so I know about one but I was sworn to secrecy); volunteered; been honest; and only occasionally cursed. Stuff he still doesn’t talk about. 


For many years I tried to live up to the expectations that I felt my parents had for me. It has taken me many mistakes and a few regrets to realize that I was ME because of them. Good or bad, they laid the ground work and, if I do say myself, I turned out pretty good. I have a nice home, lots of friends, a small side business that’s doing okay, a job I like and a relationship that I hope turns into the 50 or mores years that they recently celebrated together.


Okay, so far it may sound like some type of eulogy instead of a birthday letter. But how do I tell my Dad I enjoy every drop of sweat that physical labor brings to me; that every time I hear a bluegrass song on the radio, that when the alarm goes off at 6 A. M., that when I have to  be quick thinking under pressure, that when I have to mourn the loss of a friend, that when I have to pay the bills, when  I repair something (because I was too lazy the first time), when I lie awake at night and wonder what this world is coming too, that I wish I was closer to my siblings, that I wish I could be there to look at the reflection in his eyes of the 70ish candles on his cake. That I, like his children, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren could tell him what a  wonderful  influence he has had on all our lives, and that others in the world see that everyday.


But it’s something I don’t talk about. . Happy Birthday, Dad, and many, many more.

Yellow Cab
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