This year would be my father's 60th birthday (if I've got the dates right). I've been seeing him a lot lately in men of a certain age around my neighborhood. Men with bushy white hair & beards, tan faces and limbs, in easy summer clothes. Relaxed, confident men, casually steering a sailboat through the channel or coolly strolling down the sidewalk.
Every time I see him (them) he's alone. Totally at ease. And I know he'll light up in the instant that I call out to him. Oh, but when I take a second look, he's gone already, absorbed into the body of someone else's father, uncle, husband, friend. My father is gone.
I don't know what's brought him back to me so strongly right now. Maybe it's his approaching birthday. Or the stress at my job that prompts me to ask for help from others, when his insight is what I want. Or maybe it's because my friend's mother is dying & that loosened the screen between the living & the dead for us. Maybe it's that I'm nearing the date that will put me at as many years without him as I had with him. Or it might be my son, who has his Grampy's curly hair and all the other features that remind me of my dad, & all my son's characteristics that my dad would have enjoyed. It might be my husband's devotion to our boy, the good parenting he models for me, and the echoes from my father's parenting.
It's good to see my dad, even in others, and to recall him at his best. To imagine him at his best right now. And it hurts so freshly to lose him again to the forms of these strangers.
Whatever may have prompted this visit from him, I've decided what it means. I still love him. His love is still with me. My life is changing so much, both from what it's been and from what I imagined for my life, but all the good my dad gave me is still part of me. It shapes me in these changes. And I share it with my loves today.
Happy Birthday Dad, & many happy returns.