Happy Birthday Dad.
You would have been 75. I feel your presence constantly, but more so around your birthday. Is it because you died before your time and before we had made peace?
There have been some uncanny coincidences in the last few weeks. A mention in USA Today, a call about one of your horses being inducted into a hall of fame. Then, I've worked with a man for 20 years, and over drinks a few weeks ago, I learned that he was once an engineer at WABC in 1980, just a few months after you were fired. He worked in the same studio, with the same engineers and disc jockeys that you once worked with. It was the same studio I once spent my Friday and Saturday nights in, coloring in my coloring book while you worked. This colleague and I swapped pictures, and I was a child again. I cried with a longing that I normally keep tightly tucked away.
He connected me with another engineer, Mike, one of your favorites, and my favorite too because he was always so nice to us kids. Mike spoke of the time Michelle, age five, went to school in her pajamas, before you got custody of us. I called you at work, while on the air, upset that Mom let this happen, frustrated that I hadn't been able to take care of my sister. I was only ten myself, and I left for school before she did, before I could be sure she was dressed.
How were you able to take my call, then return to the mic to introduce the next song, and still sound upbeat?
A few months later, you got sole custody of us, marking the beginning of the time that I consider our family's golden years.
So I have to wonder: is this what you do in heaven? Do you remember the good times and send messages to be sure the living remember them too? You don't need to, Dad. I have always held those memories close in my heart, because those were the years when you were at your finest. Life was crazy, and crappy things happened, but you were there for me.
The same was not true when you became the famous sportscaster. I only wish you could have been both.
Had you lived to your 75th birthday, retired, and lived at a slower pace, would you have come to your senses and made peace? Or would fear and pride keep us divided?
I like to think we would have reconciled. I would have baked you a cake—probably Magaha apple cake—one of your favorites, and the same cake that I now bake for my own children on their birthdays.