I never knew anybody who could roll with the punches like my Dad. He had what could easily (and eloquently) be described as the shittiest luck on the planet, and he still got up every single day, pulled on his hat, and kept on keeping on. In the thirty-one years I had with him, I don't even think I ever heard him complain about anything. I remember asking him once, about a month before he died, "Daddy, aren't you angry? Don't you feel like this is so unfair?" And he shrugged and said that he always thought of life as being like a book that you haven't read before-- you never know what's going to happen next, you just turn the page and think, "Oh, hell, I didn't see that coming" and keep on reading.
I think he just gave me the book analogy because he was trying to give me something I could relate to. Dad was awesome like that.
Looking back to this past year, full of changes, many of them hard and scary, I realize that although I've done the best I could, I haven't rolled with the punches all that well. As a matter of fact, you know that British saying "Keep Calm and Carry On"? I once saw a sign styled in that same way that instead said "Now Panic and Freak Out." That's really much more my style. (Side Note: I was thinking about this the other day. B and I have quite a few friends who are doctors, and I was considering what a horrible doctor I would make. Not only do I hate blood and science and germs, but IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY I would be curled up in the corner with my eyes covered singing Journey songs to myself because that's what calms me down-- 80s power ballads and tight spaces.)
Today is my Dad's birthday. He would have been sixty-three years old. And it has only taken me seven years (obviously, I mature emotionally at the speed of light) to get to a place where to honor his memory, I realize the best thing that I can do is to emulate the positive qualities that he had. Patience. Kindness. Acceptance. Strength. So amidst all that seems to be falling apart within myself, that's what I woke up this morning hoping to do. And I'm trying. No rage, no bitterness. I was raised better than that.
This year has had some good in it too. I saved the first email I got from the Registrar at my college calling me "Professor McPhail" because it made me laugh and would have made my Dad so proud. He probably would have printed it out and hung it on the bulletin board in his office, because that's the kind of thing he did. I thought of him every time Sutton scored a basket at one of his games on Saturday mornings. Every time Belly came home with some crazy-good new artwork she had created in Advanced Art Club. When Blaker built Sutton a handmade, custom UNC desk for his room. Whenever I saw my brother hold his daughter. Each time a plane flew over. I keep him with me always. He's there to cheer us on.
And through the tough times, the days when whatever I turn the page and what I see is scary and hard and completely unexpected? I've learned to keep him with me then too. And I do the best I can to keep calm and carry on. That is how I keep him alive in this world. Because I've learned there is no making sense of it all, life isn't always fair, you never know what the next chapter brings. You just take a deep breath, and keep on reading.
Happy Birthday, Daddy.