Today's my Daddy's 84th birthday.
He complains about this or that, like not being able to think of the word he needs that's on the tip of his tongue, or not having the energy he used to have... but these are things I'm already dealing with!
He's got scars from top to bottom, thanks to heart surgeries, aneurysm surgeries, plus a few other minor and not-so-minor operations... he has to check his blood sugar and his blood pressure every day... he can't eat everything he wants to like he used to, like eggs and bacon and ice cream... but he can still grab a shovel and pluck a stray baby loquat tree from the ground for me... he can jump up from his chair a zillion times a day to give one of their spoiled squirrels a peanut... he can refill the bird feeder, empty the trash, drive to the corner store for his lotto ticket, and do his share of the housework.
In my mind he has never aged.
When I think of him, I see him smiling his devilish grin... maybe humming and doing a little dance across the kitchen floor. I can hear his sweet voice, Time to wake up, Barbara... and his dead-on impersonation of an evil laugh. Mwaa-haa-haa.
I see him jumping rope, showing me how to do push-ups against the kitchen counter, playing ping-pong, swinging a golf club (grumbling) and a tennis racket.
He's beside me at the Sears candy counter, buying us some warm cashews or malted milk balls... in the car at the drive-in theater, watching westerns... in the living room, watching Dark Shadows... at our square dance lessons, do-si-do-ing... at my babies' baptisms, holding them close as only a grandfather can... at the zoo, helping me keep my young brood together.
He's handing me Black Beauty or Call of the Wild or something from Leon Uris, and tucking a paperback into his metal lunchbox.
He's in the driver's seat, shuttling me and my friends to the movies and basketball games... he's in the passenger seat, letting me practice behind the wheel.
He's painting an orange and yellow lattice on my bedroom ceiling... he's painting a large fluorescent orange circle on my ceiling... he's painting my furniture royal blue.
I see him mowing the grass, wiping the sweat off of his brow with a little golf towel, taking a small break to chug some orange juice and then getting back to work. I see him helping me plant beans in the sand pile and sunflowers beside the utility building.
I could go on and on and on... each memory triggers an avalanche of more. I know I'm blessed to be able to still add to them, and to say "Happy birthday, Daddy! Thank you for all of these wonderful memories! I love you!"