Today Would Have Been My Dad’s 80th Birthday – Here’s How I’m Celebrating
Today is my Dad's 80th birthday... well, it would have been. He passed away a few years ago. So, today is kind of a hard day for me. Right now, my eyes are stinging and filled with tears that haven't quite fallen down my face yet. I'm doing my best to suck them back in and blot. Blot. Blot.
My dad was always a pretty cool cat. I like to think his laid back personality came through somewhere in my DNA. Luckily, I am 100% sure I inherited my mom's ability to fly off the handle in a fight or flight situation. All women should be blessed with that woman's fearlessness! I've seen her face down some pretty big fellows...
She may be small but she is mighty!
My dad was 6' 5" and had this black crazy curly hair that turned salt and pepper later in life. I am the fourth child and didn't come along until my siblings had stripped most of the black from his hair. My little brother, Chance finished him off...
Look at how excited my dad was that his fourth child came into the world!
For the most part, my dad was sweet and caring with a mischievous smile. One of my favorite memories was when I was little, I'd get upset at my mom for making me do something like pick up my toys! I'd cry and fuss. He'd comfort me and say, "Aww dog'gone it!" Then, I'd rub my snot into his soft white t-shirt and laugh hysterically. I'd be pretty aggravated if my kid purposefully wiped snot on my clean shirt. But, not my dad. He'd laugh. He was just that kind of guy.
Every 80s dad just loved running these Daisy meetings!
When my dad passed, his body was thin and frail. My brother had to pick him up off the bed so my mom could change his sheets. This guy, who sat next to Hulk Hogan on a plane and chatted about the inconveniences of being a big 'n tall guy could be picked up off a bed.
When he passed, his mind was so distorted, he hallucinated about parades going through the living room and couldn't perform basic human functions like swallowing food.
When he passed, it was a blessing.
I like to remember my dad like this... with post-Chance hair and faded arm tats...
You see, my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in his Sixties and every day past that was a day dealing with the hell it brought. My mom went through that hell with him, always worrying about his health, pills, schedules, food, doctor's appointments, insurance, money, leaving him alone, caring for a 6'5" man by herself, and carving out a life somewhere. She's pretty much the most amazing woman I know.
I miss my dad all the time. Days like today are the hardest. But, I like to think he's hanging around Heaven, driving around his '56 Jag Roadster with Jesus and my Aunt Rita. Black curly hair, flowing in the wind. I like to think he's not in pain and is even taller than his earthly body would ever allow.
Losing a loved one to Parkinson's Disease is really bad. I would imagine living through the hell that is Parkinson's is the worst. Your body and your mind simultaneously deteriorate but hang on just enough so that you know it and feel it. I don't think it's a coincidence that my dad's birthday coincides with April being Parkinson's Awareness Month.
Today, if you have a few extra bucks in your bank account, please consider donating to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research or a local Parkinson's nonprofit that helps those who are battling this disease every day. It won't bring back my dad or credit him those lost years but, hopefully, we can find a cure so others' loved ones won't face the same fate.
Today, I celebrate my dad's life. I celebrate the day he came barreling into the world - in a hotel room in Texas. (My grandma Ruby was a whole 'nother story. She also passed away from Parkinson's Disease.) I celebrate his gentle spirit and the love we shared.
Below is of my pic of my daughter Ava on her grandpa's grave. He lies peacefully next to his brother Charley. We call this one, "Fly Dad, Fly!"
But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:31