They want me to write about rental housing and life insurance and private home care for the elderly, but the only words that really matter today are: I miss you Dad. Happy birthday.
He was one of the best people I've ever known. And I'm almost positive I'm not being selectively blind about this, viewing him through a gauzy haze of grief and longing that's blurring out his rough edges. Because he had those. He totally did.
But he also taught me to notice things like a golden autumn leaf or a long dormant tulip bulb poking its way out of the earth in early spring. He saw small beauties everywhere, and the wonder he had for those everyday miracles radiated from him like summer heat off the sidewalk. He had a way of talking about the people he'd lost that somehow showed more of his love for them than his sorrow over losing them. He was joyous, relentlessly pursuing the things that made him smile and brought him comfort. He fully immersed himself in everything he loved: church, sacred music, sports memorabilia, and his family. He was settled, secure and confident about himself and the people and things that he believed in.
He also once hauled some guy halfway out of his car window and punched him, punishment for a driving offense of some sort that Dad felt wouldn't otherwise be properly meted out. In his much younger years he took to the streets of Toronto late one night looking for crimes in progress that he could bust up. Irish temper. He had that too.
But the Dad I knew best went to Christmas craft shows with me. Once he bought himself a tiny gingerbread house - something that still somehow makes me want to weep, because that's just the kind of person he was: a great big man with a great big laugh who won (and lost) bloody fights when he played hockey, and bought gingerbread houses with his daughter.
Last summer, as we sat on the deck while he ate an old person's snack of digestive cookies and water, he told me he'd had a good, happy life. He reminded me that he always managed to find joy, especially in simple pleasures. His eyes shone, looking beyond me into the past.
And oh, I miss him. I first knew I would lose him when I was a terrified 13-year old sitting in the emergency waiting room late one winter night. Twenty-seven years later I finally did. And it was every bit as awful as I'd been imagining it would be for all those years.
But I'm looking at spring buds, and taking solace in the simple pleasures that make me happy. Because that's what he taught me.
I miss you, Daddy.