So 65 years old is a big year - but I think back to 37 years ago, and 28 must have been a pretty big year for him too. Four kids. Hot blue Mustang. Flash Gordan. Trampola. Big year. I remember when I was 28, and Gabe was coming into our world as a bright addition to our lives, a little piece of the future that I had to mold, shape, love, but I never had to save him. He landed fine, smooth, and made his way. We, on the other hand, needed a little saving.
Today, my Stepdad turned 65, and I got a little reflective about the things I never have said to him, the things that he should know, the things that are tough when men stand in a room and look at each other in awkward silence. So, I took to what I do best, I wrote them down. Then I read them, and realized what a short list of life changing times and what a wonderful deep love I have for him, and more importantly, what a wonderful love he has shown for us. So, here is the list:
1. I thank him for buying the station wagon. I had never ridden in a new car. I remember the 8 Track cassette that we wore out on the trip to Chicago. I remember the four headlights and the baby blue paint. It was unbelievable that someone would buy something that nice for us to share.
2. I thank him for Tugaloo Gorge and Bass Fishing and Boats and Camping. It was hot when we went to see the Atlanta Game, but it was cool to sleep in the blue station wagon at Tugaloo Gorge. The barrel was fun - the scab was fun, the trip was my first real taste that I can remember of what families are supposed to do together.
3. I thank him for teaching me respect for my Mom. I remember when I was 16 going on know it all, and he stepped in, stepped up, and let me know the rules. That lesson sticks with me today - not just with my Mom- an ounce of humility goes a long way.
4. I thank him for San Diego. Support, whether I deserved it or not, was there. It was never conditional, and never has been. Going to college was one of the best things that could of happened to me, and when I needed a hand up, I got it.
5. I thank him for Waylon Jennings and Alice Cooper. I thank him for big Tandy Speakers and a Realistic Turntable. His love for music and sound and life quietly came through in his record collection - and he let me listen to those records, and loved it when I did.
6. I thank him for standing behind the batters cage when I was pitching. I always seemed to throw harder and faster and straighter when he stood there. I want him to know that. His presence always comforted me, and still does.
7. I want to thank him for his family. They accepted us. They did not have to, but they did. Uncle Mike and his displays of wrestling prowess, Granddad and Old Walter, Grandma always had Ice Cream, Uncle Ann and Bob always had a hug and kind words and could save a kid from himself, Uncle Bill had a joke to make you smile, Aunt Amy and Greg are the best cooks (and fishermen) east of the Mississippi, and Uncle Jim and Aunt Susan were engaged and conversationalists that always brought up something that made me think. Most of all, they showed me what families do.
8. I want to thank him for his patience. I don't need to say much about this, just look at me - I don't think there are very many Old or New Testament folks who are as patient as he is.
I just realized I could write these down all day long. It is simple, I am glad my Dad is 65 years old. I am glad that he taught me a curve ball and how to push a lawn mower, and how to treat a woman. I am glad he taught me silent comfort and some patience. I am glad that his temperance and solid character is a part of my life.
On his 65 birthday, I hope that he knows that he changed our lives, and for that, there is no gift that I can wrap and mail other than to say thank you (and a gift card to the bait shop). The difference you have made in my life, and the comfort that you are a part of us is something that I cherish and try to live up to every day. Happy Birthday.