My dad turns 62 today.

I like to joke around, given that my father and I have a very strong resemblance, that ‘if you have seen me, you have seen the father.’ And it’s undeniably true, something that has been so for about as long as I’ve been alive. I am my father’s son. As he was his.

In the way that sons are with the fathers whom they resemble, I took my father for granted growing up. He worked very hard to become everything he is and has earned every bit of what he owns. Being far removed from the days when I lived under the same roof as my dad, and now being states away, I reflect on the decisions I’ve made as an adult. I didn’t come from just about nothing, like my father did. I only took a cursory interest in most of the things he was interested in, unlike my father, who carried my grandfather’s legacy on even to the present.

Had I been paying attention–like I should have–I would have followed more closely to him, listened more intently, not been so adversarial in the angst of my youth. I would have unreluctantly helped him work on TVs and stereos, not run inside at the first chance I could to avoid helping to work on my car. (That was many times and one time too many, and, given the condition his back has been in for 20 years, unacceptably selfish. When it comes to our parents, though, aren’t we all at some point?)

Clearly, I wasn’t paying attention. And, even though I was a mule of a kid, the lessons got through: responsibility, commitment, compassion, devotion and a deep-rooted commitment to fairness and justice. Every night, as a young boy, my mother would read to me and pray with me before I went to bed and, later, my father would come in, make sure I was tucked in, and kiss me good night. He would never shy away from saying he loved me.

It is only now that the picture of the past is more clear to me. My grandfather–the one whom, according to extended family, I truly resemble–and my father never told each other they loved each other until my grandfather was on his deathbed. It was implied and understood, but never vocalized between them. I don’t think my father says that to with the vicarious intent of making up for missed opportunities with his father, but that it was what he wanted me to know and not just infer.

My dad was 26 years old when his father died. I turned 30 about six months ago. For four years now, I’ve enjoyed something my father could not: being able to pick up the phone and call my dad, talk about anything and nothing, and say ‘I love you’ before hanging up. And the time I get to be with him, like later this week, when my parents are coming here to visit, is not taken for granted anymore. Children may be an inheritance, but good parents are a true and rare blessing in our time. And I have been blessed to be my father’s son. I hope I can be the man he is to the children I hope to have. I also look forward to him being there for it, too.

Happy birthday, Dad. I love you.

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