My Dad celebrated his birthday yesterday — a “speed limit” birthday, as he called it (65). I can’t think of a more appropriate theme for this week’s photo challenge than being nostalgic as I wish him one more Happy Birthday through this post.
I fished this photo out because I’ve always loved it. It’s so telling of the times: the 70s. The Fonze T-shirt my brother is wearing. The Panama City Gulf World graphics in the background.
I have to admit that I don’t remember this specific trip, but the image reminds me of the countless summer vacations I went on as a child. Both my parents worked hard and made sure my brother and I had all those childhood milestone vacations, such as Disney World and other theme parks, summer beach getaways, and, later, Hawaii and San Francisco.
Now that I’m a parent, I know that traveling with kids is not easy. Back then, we weren’t speeding up our travel time by flying, either. These were road trips that often started before the sun was up. I can only imagine how cranky we must have become in the car — or three days into a trip when we started getting home sick, for that matter.
But the one thing I remember about my dad then — and now — is how patient he can be. I’m sure he heard his fair share of whining, but I know that he was on the other side of that camera making funny faces at us to get us to smile and giggle.
That’s my Dad: In the most heated of moments or tear-filled times, he is just so patient. He’s kind and extremely giving. He tried to give me everything I wanted without spoiling me in such a way that I wouldn’t appreciate it. I have no earthly idea how he was able to do that, but now that I’m a parent I need to figure it out.
My Dad taught me to stop and the smell the roses, but I’m not sure he knows that. I have this memory — and in my mind’s eye it’s very much lit in the 70s faded light like the photo above — in which he called my brother and I outside to watch a fast-moving Mississippi thunderstorm making its way toward us.
As a kid, you can’t appreciate that kind of event, but I do remember the odd light in the sky and the angry clouds that were building on top of one another. But I wasn’t very interested in watching the sky, so much as watching my Dad. He was awestruck and amazed by what Mother Nature was sending his way, and I wanted to understand and appreciate that moment like he did.
He’s taught me so much in such a quiet and unassuming way: To give for the pure joy of giving; to try to stay upbeat, amidst the tears or road trip whines; to share my wonder of the world with my girls; to teach my kids to succeed without pressuring them or making them anxious; and to love my family and try to give them the world.
Happy birthday, Dad. I love you.