Happy Birthday, Poppers!
Today is my dad’s 86th birthday. For as long as I can remember, Poppers has always been a steadfast rock in my life. He’s raised 9 of us with hard work and discipline and in his retirement years, my dad makes things with his bare hands: things like rocking chairs, wooden mirrors, benches, desks and cribs. (My office is furnished with his handiwork.)
By the time I came along, his fatherhood skills were perfected. Being the baby has it’s perks! Dad and I share some great memories: when I was 4, we sat in the barn and watched the miracle of birth, just us. At age 5, he took me dress shopping. Every time I came out of the fitting room to show the sales lady, my dress was on backwards thanks to him (“I thought the zipper goes in front!”). By the time I was a teenager, I had a healthy dose of fear for my father, who sternly disciplined me as I so deserved. On my 16th birthday, my proud Dad drove me to get my driver’s license. Ooh, and I’ll never forget the white-knuckled roadtrip back home from Washington (“Let’s take the scenic route-through Wyoming!”). Those high mountain passes with no-guardrail-hairpin-turns and free-roaming cattle made for the hairiest driving experience to date!
Living in Minneapolis, I’d come home on weekends to wash my clothes and recharge before heading back to the cities for another workweek. I’d show up with an empty tank of gas and drive back on full, my tires pumped and fluids topped off in my car, nary a word from Dad. He’d slip me a $20 bill with the stern advice to not “spend it all in one place.” To this day, before walking out the door, my dad still says, “drive like a man, now.” (My dad is the king of one-liners…and thanks to my brother Tom, Skoogisms will live through generations.)
As I prepared my move to New York City more than ten years ago, my dad suffered a massive heart attack. I wondered if I should stay or go, and it was my dad who instructed me to carry on, live my life and chase my dreams. So I did. Three years ago, mom and dad proverbially handed me off to my own special gentle giant. They say you marry your father, and I might have.
Happy birthday, dad. You are one of a kind and I owe you the world!