Happy 60th Birthday! I’ll never forget the look your face when I came home in a police car at 16 years old. (Side note for those of you reading, I didn’t break any laws) Or the sound in your voice when I called you to tell you I had crashed your car in our own driveway. The one I wasn’t supposed to be driving while you and mom were out of town. (Oops!) Or the time I crashed your car again into a cement ball at the condo while you were in Italy. Please don’t let me drive your vehicles.
There was the time I got a speeding ticket on my very first day of being a licensed driver. The time I maxed out my credit card and got way in over my head. And the time I threw a party at the house when I wasn’t supposed to and a few too many friends showed up. While I was always afraid to tell you about these mistakes – and let’s be honest, there were many more – I never, not once, feared that you wouldn’t forgive me or stop loving me. I knew you would always be there to catch me when I fell.
You’re the kind of dad who took our Girl Guide cookies to work and sold them for us so we could win a prize (and upset the parents of kids who honourably went door to door, suckers). The kind of dad who woke us up on a father-daughter camping trip and took us out for French toast and pancakes before anyone else was up. The kind of dad who commuted hours in traffic (and boy do I appreciate this now) every day to work for years so that we could live in a nice home in a nice community and so that mom could stay home with us. The kind of dad who got us Backstreet Boys concert tickets to soften the blow of moving us thousands of kilometers away from the only home we’d ever known. You’re the dad who books a family trip to Disney World for your 60th birthday because there’s no better gift to you than a week with your family. The kind of dad who shows up to watch your grandson two-step on the ice at his skating lesson and is beaming with pride. You’re the kind of dad I looked for in my future husband and the one who so naturally became the most wonderful Nonno to my babies. The kind of dad who went out of your way to surprise and spoil Nee and I, over and over again.
I didn’t realize until much later in life how much we have in common. In fact, many of my qualities are inherited from you – both good and bad. We are both pretty stubborn and determined to be right, something I know you would agree took its toll on our relationship during my teenage years. We’re both hot-tempered and quick to lose our cool but equally quick to feel lousy about it and wallow to the ones we’ve hurt with our words or raised voices.
We both love to write and have a special way with words. We are both persuasive and good at selling things (something that’s helped me build a career for myself)
We’ve both struggled with our weight. Gained together, lost together. That has never changed. But you’ve always made me feel beautiful. You’ve always supported me in being as healthy as possible and I know you’ll continue to do this as I try to pick back up and finally get to where I need to be.
We both love fiercely and get such joy from doing things for others. As much as you worked and cared for us growing up, don’t think I didn’t notice everything you did for others. It is your giving heart that made me who I am today. And it wasn’t about big gestures either. Simple things like the way you always thank the cashier using their name at the grocery store. Or the generous tip you leave when we receive exceptional service somewhere. Your charitable work and giving back to those less fortunate. The kindness you show to complete strangers regardless of where we are.
You are the kind of dad who is strong and capable but can also be vulnerable and soft. When mom got sick, you were by her side every single day and have been there every day since. I saw a different side of you during those months and the subsequent years after. For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. Never more were those vows so apparent in the way you took care of her and continue to do so. Truth is you take care of us all. It never mattered how big or small, you always were and always will be our rock.
Watching you with my boys over the last 4 years has truly been amazing. The way they both light up in your presence and come running to you fills my cup and my heart with such immense joy. How lucky they are to have you, as lucky as Nee and I were growing up.
You’re not perfect and I know you’re the first to admit it. None of us are. But the lessons you’ve taught me and the strength you continue to exude have truly provided me with an exceptional life. I hope you know that.
Wishing you the most wonderful birthday and year ahead.
That’s my daughter in the water
Every time she fell I caught her
Every time she fell
That’s my daughter in the water
I lost every time I fought her
I lost every time
– “That’s my Daughter” by Lou Wainwright
Title song – “Good Mother” by Jann Arden