Today is my Dad’s 93rd birthday. He has his mind, and his body is (relatively) healthy, if a bit frail. I live several hundred miles away and due to work don’t visit as often as I should. Over the Christmas holidays he gave me some precious items as part of his passing of the torch to the next generation. On the one hand, this was a lovely gesture, but on the other it was a bit sad to see him not decluttering (one of my favorite topics on this blog), but in some way preparing for the day when he is not around to make the decisions. Admirable, but poignant as well.
We had a lovely time going through an old photo album and he expressed delight that I recognized so many of the people and could reminisce with him about folks long gone. It made him so happy to know that I would be able to recount these stories to my children.
Aging is hard.
I am on the cusp of it myself, observing the wrinkles as they decorate my face, working ever harder to preserve my fitness as an insurance policy against old age disability as much as in vain desire to fit into my size 27 skinny jeans.
I have hung my Dad’s medical school diploma and a fun original cartoon given to him at a surprise 40th birthday party in my home office. I only have images in this space that remind me of who I am and where I have come from and who I love. Instead of a mood board or a “decorated” room it is my identity space, inspiring me to be my best and truest self.
Like so many men of his generation, my dad is not given to many words of praise or outward expressions of love and affection. At times I have felt the sting of his critical temperament, and at times I have checked that tendency in myself — remembering what it felt like to be on the receiving end of a sarcastic comment or a cutting remark.
But there is much to admire in my father, and much to be grateful for. He had the kind of inseparable, loving sibling relationship with his two – years – younger brother that most of us could only wish for. He instilled in me a work ethic that not only contributed to my own success, but made me respect and acknowledge hard work in others, be they custodians or astronauts or students or drywall hangers. “All work is noble” he always said, and he really believed it, and so do I. He was his best self in his own work. As a physician he had patience for the human foibles that lead to obesity, addiction or failure to comply. He was revered by his patients and his colleagues.
Happy Birthday, Dad, and thanks for the life and the values you have given me. While I don’t expect you to say it, I know you are as proud of me as I am of you.