It was 109 in Texas and something about the heat reminded me what it felt like to shovel dirt into and onto my father’s grave.
Maybe it was the sweat pouring into my eyes or the guy behind me calling my name whose voice reminded me of the rabbi telling me it was time to take a break.
As I turned my head to face him I knew there was a look of irritation on my face and figured he’d think it was the heat even though it wasn’t.
Wasn’t the memory of the rabbi telling me to stop because no one could tell me anything that day that I wasn’t open to hearing, it was the voice of someone who said “almost 75 is like being 80.”
I don’t remember who said it but I am certain I didn’t respond with a stream of curses about how bad their math was.
Dad was a couple months short of his 75th birthday and now five years later he isn’t here to celebrate 80. I can’t ask him if he remembers how his father talked about the Northridge earthquake.
Grandpa turned 80 that year and I distinctly remember him saying that at 65 it would have been an adventure, but at 80 it wasn’t great.
He lost his house that day and less than three weeks later I had to tell him that his son, my father’s younger brother had died.
Grandpa never told me disliked 1994, but he had reason to.
I think of myself as being more sentimental than my father was, maybe not in all ways, but in some for certain.
Though I have noticed as I have gotten older I have adopted more of his habit of not looking backwards as much as once did.
I never tried to go back, but I appreciated learning about somethings by looking backwards and forwards.
Now I hear Dad telling me to live in the present and remember certain disagreements but I recognize some of what he was trying to teach me.
I got a text from one of his oldest friends letting me know they were thinking about Dad and I smiled. It was good to hear from him and for a moment I wondered if Dad had ever considered what he would want to do for his 80th birthday.
My guess is that he might have thought about having some sort of celebration for 75, after all we didn’t know about the cancer when he turned 74.
But I never asked and I suspect that once the freight train we call pancreatic cancer had started rolling down the tracks there wasn’t time to think about it.
Given he chose to go into the hospice there is a chance that maybe things could have been extended but that is a big ‘if’ given how many things were going on then.
There was a part of me that wanted to ask him to keep fighting but I knew he was exhausted and that would have been too selfish.
Can’t say how long things might have been extended but I am skeptical that it would have come with the quality of life he wanted and deserved.
Lincoln saved the Union and is a hero to millions. Dad wasn’t Lincoln and we never needed him to be.
He was a husband, father, grandfather, son and brother. That was more than enough for us, more than enough to make us notice his absence.
It is midnight old man, Happy Birthday.
Should we get the chance to meet again I’ll have plenty of stories to share.
We miss you.