You would have turned 61 years old on Friday. Maybe you’re still alive in some alternate universe, and we’re celebrating. We’re probably going to the movies, the birthday activity that has become an unofficial birthday tradition. We’re probably enjoying German chocolate cake, your favorite, and playing a rousing game of Clue — the only game where you really let your competitive side show in all its glory. Competitiveness and accusations of cheating aside, your special days is probably one of love and laughter.
But in reality, where life tends to be a bit more complicated, your birthday this year will honestly feel a bit disjointed. Because when I think about it — and I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately — you’re not really turning 61. Well, not in my mind at least. In fact, you’re no where near that age; you’re nearly a whole decade behind. Why? How? Simple…in my mind, you haven’t aged, plain and simple. You’re still 51 — the age you were when you died. You haven’t aged. You don’t have grey hair. You haven’t aged. You aren’t a bit shorter. You haven’t aged. You don’t have any new traces of life lines in the form of wrinkles. You haven’t aged.
Oh, and did I mention that you haven’t aged? You’re still the same person. And honestly, sometimes that is the very thing that just eats me up. Not because I hate the person you were; it’s quite the opposite, actually. I loved who you were. After all, when it came to the Father of the Year award, you had that market cornered pretty well. The problem is that sometimes, all I can think about is the person you were when you died — not the loving father you had been for the 21 years before that. It’s those two versions of you that I have trouble reconciling sometimes. Or maybe I don’t want to? I’m not sure, but all I know is that I want to do is just miss you. Is that such a bad thing? Now, don’t get me wrong…I do miss you. Terribly. But it seems like a tiny little sting of anger just has to accompany my emotions every single time I think of you. And honestly? I hate it. Really, really hate it. Although, on the bright side, my anger has decreased a lot in the last couple years. Looking at it that way, at least a little weight — even if it’s only a microscopic weight — has been lifted off my shoulders. It’s a comforting feeling.
Also a bit comforting, though a little disconcerting? I sometimes wonder if you’re somewhere looking down on me. Because guess what? Unlike you, I have aged. I was 21 when you died. I’ll be turning 31 in a little over a week. I’ve had a whole decade of life experiences, from graduating college to getting my first job. And I can’t help but feel a little tug at my heart when I think about how you weren’t here to see it all. Would you be proud of the woman I’ve become?
I love you, dad, and at the end of the day, when all is sad and done — and emotions are fully laid out on the table — I wish we could have had more time together. A lot more time. More laughs. More hugs. More father-daughter adventures. But we can’t, and I know that. So I hope you know how much I love you and always will. You were one heck of a father and earned that Father of the Year award fair and square. xoxo