Today would have been Dad's 76th birthday. If he were here with us, we'd go to Rome tomorrow to take him out to eat and carry birthday presents up there. We'd get to his house at 12:30, although I would have already called him early in the morning to wish him happy birthday and remind him that we were on our way. We would have bandied about the names of several restaurants before deciding where we wanted to go--my guess is we would have gone to Los Palmas, his favorite Mexican restaurant, or to Longhorn, where he would have had chicken tenders (like me, Dad loved Longhorn chicken fingers). Kim and Susan and I would have been there--and now that Cole and Jessie and Christy and Adam have jobs that usually leavd e them free on weekends, I suspect they would have shown up, too. We would have caught up on recent events, then reminisced about bygone days, which Dad never grew tired of.
Afterwards, we would have gone over to Dad's house to open presents--and inevitably, he would have told us, "You didn't have to get me anything." He meant it, too--Dad was almost impossible to shop for because he'd never tell anyone what he wanted. Nevertheless, I would have probably found an old favorite or two on CD, a DVD of a film that he and I had watched years before, some sugar-free cookies or candy, a pullover shirt of the type that Dad always liked, and a photo of Mom--Dad loved new photos of Mom, and never tired of looking at them.
We probably wouldn't have had a birthday cake, but odds are Dad would have pulled out a rock-hard container of Blue Bunny sugar-free ice cream, at which point he'd bend a spoon or two trying to dig out a bowl of ice cream for everyone. More conversation, more laughter, and Dad's face would brighten up... he always wanted his house to be full of conversation and laughter, as it always had been when Mom was there.
As the day grew late, we would have headed back to Marietta, and Dad would look both happy and sad... happy that the day had gone well, sad that everyone had to leave. (I will always wonder just how lonely he was after we left, but I'm afraid to know the answer...)
Then, when I got home, I would have headed out to walk, giving him a call as soon as I left the driveway. We would have talked some more, reminisced a little more, and I would have encouraged him to be sure to eat a little bit of dinner, even though I knew he'd probably snack on some popcorn or some cereal and little more.
Oh, what I'd give for one more year to do all of those things...
Happy birthday, Dad. I love you.