I’ve gone back and forth on my whole “Dad’s 75th birthday post” idea. Should I write something ABOUT my father? Or something TO him? The first way would be so easy. I could write about all the other things in the world that are also now 75 … like Tom & Jerry and Bugs Bunny … or Gone with the Wind and McDonald’s. I could craft (hopefully witty) little parallels comparing him to these lovable characters and time-honored institutions. I could even create some cutesy graphics to go along with everything. Yep, it would be a piece of cake. Writing something about my dad would definitely be the easy way to go.
Which is why I’m going the other way.
Because my dad deserves my best. He deserves a letter (a whole barrel of them actually) written by me to him. I can’t remember the last time I did that. Actually, have I EVER done that? I’m pretty sure the last time I told him I loved him was in a text. (shaking head at self) Go, me.
I think one of my earliest memories of you involves a little game we used to play on weekend mornings called “Trap Sleep.” Jeff and I would lounge around in the big bed with you on Saturdays while you pretended to be asleep. And as soon as either of us moved, you’d throw a heavy arm or leg on top of us preventing our escape. Over and over and over again. I remember laughing so hard that I probably almost wet the bed. Probably. Almost.
You’re an easy person to love, Dad. For so many reasons.
Your personality is magnetic. Mom says your sense of humor was one of the first things that drew her to you. You could tell a joke like nobody else. Your dance moves were unparalleled. From time to time, you were even known to dazzle the crowd with a spontaneous backflip on the neutral ground (that’s “median” to anyone outside of New Orleans) during a Mardi Gras parade. You were the life of the party wherever we went. And I love that. Because you are my dad.
Your knowledge is deep. But, for a while there, I only knew you were gifted mathematically. And I wasn’t. (Thanks again for all those late night Algebra and Geometry study sessions, by the way.) It wasn’t until pop culture phenomena like Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy came onto the scene that I realized my dad was such a brilliant man. On so many different subjects. We’ve wanted to submit your name as a game show contestant for years. You can hold your own in so many conversations for which I can only smile and nod. And I’m in awe of that. Because you are my dad.
Your patience is unprecedented. Mom always says you’re the most patient person in the family. And even though that contest is a footrace in our little circle, it never ceases to amaze any of us how unflappable you can be, when the rest of us would have beaten our heads (or more likely someone else’s) against the wall. I can still remember driving back to college one weekend during my freshman year only to realize the second I arrived that I’d forgotten one of my textbooks back home. When I called you to report that I’d arrived at school safely and mentioned the forgotten book, you got in your car, drove the 85 miles there, handed me the book, then turned around to drive the 85 miles back … all late on a Sunday night, when you were waking for work at 4am the next morning. Who does that?!!? Nobody else that I know. And I’m lucky. Because you are my dad.
Your generosity is immense. If someone needs a favor, all they have to do is ask.“Hey, Bill. I’m in a bind. Can you help me build a deck this weekend?” inquires a friend. “Dad, can you pick up Dean from football practice all week?” asks your pain in the ass daughter. “Papa, I know I said the test was Wednesday but it’s really tomorrow. Can you come over right now and help me study?” requests your grandchild who has no idea she’s calling in the middle of the Saints game. Your answers have always been yes, yes and yes. And I’m spoiled. Because you are my dad.
Your love is boundless. Over the years, you’ve heard me say I hit the lottery with you and Mom as parents. (Yeah, sure. I’ll throw her a bone here, too.) There’s literally never been a time I’ve needed you and you weren’t there. From three-dimensional solar system science projects and senseless fender benders to middle-of-the-night childbirths and even accidental toe circumcisions … you’ve been there for all of it. Truly, I wish I could be half of the parent you (and Mom) are to me. They just don’t make them like you anymore. And I’m blessed. Because you are my dad.
For all of these reasons and so many more, I want to say thank you. Thank you for being the best husband to my mother, the best father to Jeff and me, the best father-in-law to Dave and the best grandfather to my children that this girl could ever ask for.
I love you, Dad. Happy birthday.
(also known as Michele … to anyone who didn’t grow up in my house)