In the nearly 71 years that my father lived on this earth, he experienced a lot of hardships. He was raised in Brooklyn, New York by his mother after his alcoholic father left him, his mother, and his brother. He experienced a different kind of prejudice as people expected him to be a juvenile delinquent because of the absence of his father. He struggled to learn. He struggled in ministry. He struggled in pleasing his mother. He struggled to change.
Yes, he lived until he was almost 71, but the last few years might not easily be considered living. He was a shell of who he had once been. He was battered, beaten, and bruised. He was lonely. He was broken. He missed my mom. He missed the church that he had given his life to. He missed the place where he had spent nearly 40 years. He missed being the man he had once been and couldn’t fully accept the man that he was becoming.
Dad never asked for much for his birthday. He was pretty content with what he had. He never wanted any big ticket items. One year, my brother, my mom, and I bought him a banjo. That was probably the biggest thing I ever got him. For years, it was ties, shirts sweaters, and other stuff with no emotional significance at all. He was always kind and accepting, never once complaining about what he got, regardless of whether or not he needed it.
In some ways, I guess he’s having the best birthday ever today. He’s not experiencing pain. His emptiness is gone. He is not alone. He has been completed, fully changed, he will not change again. The struggles of the past are just a distant memory to him as he stands in the presence of the One whom he served.
I know that those are the right things to say and I believe them, but I would be lying to say that I didn’t miss him. I still keep a bottle of his cologne on my bathroom sink. Once in a while, I pick it up and take a good, long sniff. It’s amazing how I can conjure up his face in my mind with just a simple smell. I miss his smile. I miss his wisdom. I miss his love. I just miss him.
Happy birthday, Dad. I know you’re having a great day. One day, I’ll celebrate with you again. Until then, I guess I’ll just settle for the pictures in my head, the aroma of your scent, and the love that you gave and showed me. I love you!