This week my father turned 76 years old. I’m a lucky daughter to be able to spend his birthday with him in Bigfork, Montana. We’ve spent a portion of almost every summer for the past 11 years together taking in the charm and quirk of this beautiful little village. He and my mom introduced me to the last great place on Earth, Montana, when he retired and decided to be a guide on Flathead Lake. This employment period was short-lived once he realized that working for someone else while in retirement wasn’t his vision after-all. He ditched the work but stuck with Bigfork.
This terrain is unchartered for us native Floridians. There’s a stretch of road between here and our friends’ house about 10 minutes away. We’ve driven that road a countless times and he points out the same distant mountains and the same hay fields and says, “Isn’t that just beautiful?” Every single time. I love that.
From the last paragraph you may believe he’s something of a mellow guy. That’s not the case at all. I inherited my temper from him, although we both try very hard to keep it cool, sometimes the diplomatic route is the road less traveled. Maybe it’s because he’s my dad, but I believe he’s the perfect combination of loving father, football coach, CPA, storyteller, problem solver, AAA caller, justice defender, and best friend.
When I need a good laugh these things about my dad come to mind:
*When a cocktail is spilled, he shields his eyes and says, “Oh, I’d rather see a church burn.”
*His usual explanation for the inexplicable: “Well, I think you’re dealing with a person with a terminal case.” Terminal case? Terminal case of what? “A terminal case of dumbass.”
*The way he winks at himself in the mirror and says, “You handsome devil, don’t you ever die.”
Things that melt my heart:
*The way he talks about how smart his grandchildren are. He thinks even the mundane is amazing.
*He signs his letters, “I love you more…..POP.”
*The time he played I’ll Be Home For Christmas on his trumpet.
The reasons I’m lucky he’s my dad:
*The morning after one of our numerous conversations about the worst thing in the world happening, he calls to see if they sun came up where I live. I always say that it did. Then he says, “I told you it would.”
*He taught me that it always works out. It might not work out the way I want it to and it might take a while but it will work out and it will be ok.
*He has been a devoted and loving husband to my mom for almost fifty years.
*He kept the ball moving down the field for our family no matter the circumstance.
*He’s always been there for me and there’ve been times when I wouldn’t blame him for ditching me.
This road-trip is a fantastic experience for so many reasons. But, one of the best things is that I talk to him almost every day. I promised him that I’ll stop driving when it gets dark and let he and my mother know where I am staying every night. A reasonable request but proves difficult where there’s no cell signal. He’s the first person I recount my day to and he thinks each story is better than the last.
Pop, I wish you a year full of joy and surprises. Thank you for giving fatherhood your all. I wish I could say your job is over and I can take it from here but if I did I’d be a cold-hearted liar. I love your humor, your grumpiness, your logic, your understanding, your sense of adventure, your generosity, and most of all that you are my dad.
Enjoy 76! That’s the spirit.