For most people, today stands out in two ways: the one that happens every year is the anniversary of Washington’s Birthday. The other is fairly unique to this year, it of course being the date of 2/22/22 on a Twosday… err Tuesday. And of course at 2:22 AM (when most of us are asleep) or 2:22 PM for those who us who are awake. I won’t be doing anything special at that particular time, other than taking notes for class.
But for me, February 22nd has always had a different meaning in my heart, and this year even more so. My father was born 75 years ago today. He always got a kick out of sharing his birthday with the Father of our Nation, but for me, it was always more important to share it with the Father of me.
It’s been just under six and a half years since he left my life. But that’s not entirely accurate. While his voice has faded in my head and he’s no longer a physical presence in my life, he’s still there. More than once I’ll say something to my kids like “Oh your grandfather would….”. They were fortunate enough to be old enough to know him when he died, but of course I have far more memories of him than they ever will. Part of the reason I say such things to them is that it helps to keep his memories alive one more generation. I think that’s a worthy goal. And one I think he’d support.
He was an English major in college, so of course became a builder to pay the bills, and later in life an architect. He understood the power and the value of “the story” no matter what the story might be about. While we didn’t agree on genres, we agreed on that much. He was never much of a fan of Star Trek for example, but even years ago when the only Star Trek was the original series, he respected the stories it told and the archetypes it often drew upon, such as its reliance on Greek mythology and Shakespeare. So, I think it would tickle him pink to know he’s become a part of oral history, if nothing more.
A few weeks ago, I wondered to myself, “I wonder if my dad would be proud of what I’m doing (going back to school).” I immediately corrected myself and said “I know he would be.” Back when I first went to college, he decided he couldn’t be a builder his entirely life, his body just wouldn’t handle it, so he decided to become an architect. I’m still not entirely sure how he talked his way into Columbia, but he did. So for awhile we were both in college at the same time, me getting my Bachelor’s, him getting his Master’s. And to show that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, his mother, Chestene, at the same time decided to take some classes at her local community college in New Haven.
And in sort of an echo to the past, I find myself in college at the same time as my daughter. So history repeats itself.
I started by mentioning he would have been 75 today had he not succumbed to C. Difficile Colitis in 2015. It of course saddens me to know he’s not here. I won’t hear his voice again. I can’t ask him for advice on something. I can’t even argue with him over some trivial point where neither of our stubbornness will allow us to concede. He was part of my life for decades and I had hoped he’d be there for decades more. He was simultaneously one of the wisest and most compassionate man I knew, and also the most stubborn. He was a giant to me, both figuratively and at 6′ 4″ literally. And yet my memory of him, laying their in his hospital bed, he’s so small.
As I like to say, he wasn’t just my father. Biologically that’s the easy part. He was my dad. And at that, while sometimes he stumbled, he always would strive to do better. And this humble jumbled attempt doesn’t do him the service he deserves in recognizing him. But, I have now, included made you part of his story. And though not here, and he’d never admit it, I think he’d appreciate that.