It’s my Dad’s birthday

Today my Dad would be 110 if he were alive. He died when he was 55 years old. He was a healthy, vibrant man who didn’t wake up one day. I was a child. Seeing death happen up close through a child’s eye was a very surreal experience.

It all started around 1 a.m. on a cold winter night. I had a nightmare that my Dad died. I don’t know if I truly dreamed it or if I was unconsciously aware of the “goings on” which translated into a dream before I woke up.

All the lights in the house were on. My mother was frantic and my brother was calling people on the rotary phone (do you remember those? They took forever to dial). I climbed out of bed to see what was going on. My Dad was motionless in bed and my mother was close to hysterical. I was very scared.

A doctor came shortly and said he was gone. Nothing was ever the same again. There were people in the house all the time for what seemed like days on end. My father was “laid out” in the house for viewing. They did that in those days. Old German ladies came and said German prayers almost around the clock. People were bringing food but no one could eat. The atmosphere was eerie, part party, part intense sadness.

I think someone brought a keg of beer. The Irish aren’t the only ones who honor life with a celebration. After a couple of days the commotion died down and the people left. It was only when he didn’t come home from work that I really understood what had happened.

Back in those days, there weren’t any tests or unnecessary autopsies so we never knew what exactly happened. The doctor said it was a heart attack. Did he have high blood pressure or cholesterol or perhaps a birth defect? None of that really runs in our family. He was a thin man who worked a very physical job so he was very fit. We will never make any sense out of it.

What I remember most about him was his devotion to family. Because I was born so much later than my two brothers, I was not only a novelty but exulted as her royal highness. My mother scolded him many times for catering to my whims. There were late night runs for potato chips. He encouraged me how to eat weird stuff like pickled lamb’s tongue and raw bacon and I did. He taught me how to work with wood. My brother swears that he had a lot more patience with me than he did with my brothers.

My parents were married close to twenty years when I was born and he still treated my mother like a queen. If she gained a pound, he would declare that he liked a woman he could grip properly. He attributed any good things that happened to her. They occasionally bickered but of course, she was always right.

It took my mother a good two years to recover. In today’s world, she would have had therapy and probably been medicated. Back then, you talked to your friends and sobbed in your pillow. I remember she tried smoking cigarettes but that didn’t work so well. It made her barfy.

I missed experiencing a lot of things with him but I never miss his birthday. Happy birthday Dad!

67 thoughts on “It’s my Dad’s birthday

  1. What a beautifully written and expressed blog post, Kate. You write about the experience of your dad’s early death in the words/eyes of you as the child you were. Devastating, confusing, sad and disorienting. What a horror. I love the way you describe your dad, and the way he parented you, and his love for your mom. Just beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Death of a parent is so hard when you are a child. It’s confusion and the fear of loss of security and loneliness for them and anger. I was 16 when my dad died and arguably at a better age to manage it. But it still felt like a surreal disaster in slow motion. Everything changes.

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  3. Happy Birthday to your Dad, Kate. My Dad died when I was away at college. My Mom found him in his favorite chair early in the morning. He was 52. Life was never the same in so many ways. Your Dad sounds like a good Dad. It must have been very hard for you and maybe still hard. You have written some good words. I am sorry that the little you had to go through that. I am happy you continue to never miss wishing him a Happy Birthday.

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  4. A heartfelt tribute to your Dad, so sorry you had to lose him at a young age. Glad you have great memories of being his little Princess and love that you celebrate his bday each year. Go out tonight for some potato chips. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like your memories of your father. I sometimes wonder if by losing a parent at a young age we come to idealize them more than if we’d been adults when they passed. The thing I don’t remember about my father is his voice. I wish that I could conjure that up in my head, but it’s gone forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I really enjoyed reading about your dad. Your written memories here made me feel like I knew him. It breaks my heart for children who lose a parent. It must forever change the course of one’s life. My heart goes out to you. I really like him, and I never met him. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Happy birthday to your Dad Kate. He was very young when he died.
    He sounds very much like mine……….. thin, doing an active job (builder), and if Mum gained a few pounds, would tell her there was more of her to cuddle. It’s 22 years for me, and I still miss him. Now Mum’s joined him and I find comfort in the thought they are together again.

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  8. He obviously made a wonderful impact during his relatively short life, and isn’t that what all of us should strive for? He is smiling somewhere, seeing his princess/royal highness still celebrating his birthdays. Hold on to those happy thoughts Kate, and keep celebrating him. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Happy birthday to your father, Kate. When I was in junior high, my best friend lost her father, he was only 37 years old. He and his wife also had 2 year old twin sons. I don’t know how my friend’s mother survived but she went on to raise four wonderful children, on her own.

    Liked by 1 person

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