Monday was my birthday. Unlike last year, I was able to allow some semblance of celebration.
I was born the day before my father's 20th birthday. So as I was growing up we celebrated our birthdays together. One cake....loads of candles. It was gratifying to share cupcakes and pizza with my Dad again this year though it was packed with emotion.
My Dad is 78 years old, in poor health, and a career alcoholic. He was a great father. He was attentive, took the job seriously, and we never doubted that he would put his family ahead of all things. He made our childhoods fun and secure even as he worked multiple jobs to make that happen.
He was the first in his family to graduate from college at 38 years old, the same year he retired from a twenty year US Navy career. His work history in the newspaper business and as Sports Information Director for local universities coupled with his new degree segued nicely into a second career in professional baseball. He was set to have wonderful life in a job he loved. Life had other ideas.
At sixteen, as the oldest son, while my Dad was on a tour of duty in Viet Nam, I was forced to act as the man of the family. My youngest brother was born during my Dad's sea duty.
I left home at nineteen, when my brother was only three, and only returned for visits as he grew up. He took a different path than the rest of us and in many ways exiled himself from the loving support of an ever forgiving family.
He reentered my life when my mother had her stroke. It was if he had been training to fulfill the needs my parents now had that I could no longer provide. He was at a place in his life that allowed him to move in with them and care for them. He's been a lifesaver. Mine!
During the Father/Son birthday celebration my brother gave me a card. Some silly Peanuts card that my Mom probably picked out at Walgreen's, but in it he wrote, "I'm so sorry I missed the last twenty years with you. I hope to make up for it over the next twenty." I teared up as I read the words.
I can't tell him he waited too long, but I can tell anyone reading this. Don't wait!