Today is my father's birthday. I thought that I would share some of my memories of him.
My father enjoyed his birthday. The day meant something special to him. When I was a kid, my mother and I would surprise him with presents and a home made card. I wanted to make sure that I had a nice present for him.
I can remember a set of cuff links that we bought. He wore them many times and they seemed to accent his starched white shirt. I still have those cuff links as well as many other things that belonged to my dad.
After I was out of the home and married, my wife and I would take him presents. He was always appreciative of our thinking of him. I could tell that he still had that little bit of child within him on this day.
He was born in the big farm house on a snowy morning in Virginia. I talked to a very elderly lady many years ago who remembered how my father's elder sister ran across the snowy fields to tell the neighbors of his birth. It was a happy occasion that a son was born.
After he died, it gave me a lot of pleasure to hear about his birth from someone who had been there and seen him when he was a baby. It made him seem alive in their memory of him.
My father would share a lot of stories about growing up on the farm. He told me about getting up on cold mornings and running down the stairs to stand in front of the fire in the dining room to get dressed. He told me about mornings that he and his father would ride on horseback for several miles to meet up with other riders for fox hunting. He told me about hog killing time and curing of meat in the smoke house. He shared about oystering and fishing on the family schooner. It was a different day and time back then. But I was spellbound by his stories.
One of the more poignant things that he told me was that for Christmas there would be candy and an orange or apple in his stocking. This would make me cry because of guilt that I got so much. I think now that my father might have been doing a bit of manipulating as his parents weren't poor. Maybe it was his way of making me feel grateful for those things that I received.
He never forgot the community though and would go to visit old neighbors whenever he could. At Christmas, he would take gifts to those old timers that lived near his birthplace. He enjoyed sitting around a fire and talking to them about the old times. I believe that he was a romantic at heart.
The farm was sold and the old farmhouse fell into disrepair. At least I have photos of it. And I did an oil painting of it when I was a young teenager. I remember going in the farm house and seeing my father's room upstairs. The house was empty then, with only the echoes from his past still present. I always thought that was sad and developed a feeling at that time that houses have souls too. I still believe that.
Many of the people that he grew up with have died. All of his siblings are dead. One died from alcoholism. I don't know what happened along the way in life for her or my father to have decided that drinking was a source of solace. It's a question that everyone asks who has an alcoholic relative. How did the child born in innocence become tainted by life?
Anyway, I guess all this rambling is to tell you that I still miss my dad. I would like for him to know that I'm thinking about him on his birthday. I like to think that his spirit lives on in me.