You would have been 82 today. I've missed you every day since you died; was it really almost 17 years ago?
I can't give you birthday presents anymore, but I often think about the gifts you gave me through the years. So today, on your birthday, I thought I'd say 'thanks' for some of those, in no particular order:
Thanks for the gift of stubbornness. It's a mixed blessing, to be sure, but it's mostly a gift. It keeps me on the right track most of the time, and helps me get what I want.
Thanks for your deep-set eyes and long lashes.
Thank you for giving me a deep and abiding faith. I'm sorry I don't practice it in a way that you would have understood, but I think that you understand now. You're looking at it from a different vantage point.
Thank you for sheltering me through my childhood. I didn't have to race through my childhood in some misguided attempt to be a grown up. I got the opportunity to chase butterflies, and sit out under the stars at night, and camp in my bedroom in a refrigerator box, and go fishing with you, and.....
Thank you for the example of a strong and reliable marriage. I think that one reason why I chose the man I did was because he reminded me somewhat of you. I'm thankful every day that I married him, he is a true treasure. Your example helped me choose him.
Thank you for being the most wonderful grandpa any little boy could have for those six brief years you got with him. He cherishes you and that time with you still.
Thank you for the bedtime stories. And for bringing me a box of candy hearts every Valentine's Day. Thank you for teaching me how to waltz, and for every time you ooo'd and ahhh'd over my new dress. Thank you for the proud look on your handsome face when you walked me down the aisle, and for the tender respect you gave my husband. Thank you for teaching me the constellations, and the words to all those Mitch Miller songs.
Thank you for making my wedding ring, my mother's ring and all the other lovely works of art in gold and silver which I cherish to this day. Sweet Hubs never has to worry that I'll be wanting a bigger diamond or a new wedding set. I bet he thanks you for that!
I had a wonderful childhood. You were protective and patient and a perfect example of gentle masculinity. You were also stubborn and opinionated and extremely conservative. I loved those things about you and I like them in myself because of you.
Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.