All the men I love most in this world are born in October, my dad, my husband, my son. That's all three of them in the photo above, taken at my Aunt Winnie's house on New Year's Day 1994. I was seven months pregnant with my daughter.
My dad is not exactly still in this world. He died 15 years ago, and how could he be gone so many years already? But he is still in our stories, the one who always made a way. He was the man who instilled in me that I should always be able to take care of myself, I should educate myself, have a career, I should not depend on a husband or anyone else to take care of me. He is the one flirted shamelessly with my mom until the day he died, giving her rude eyes from his hospital bed, loving her more fiercely and gallantly than all the romantic heroes in all the storybooks in the the world.
He was my silly dad. The boys who came to visit me in high school thought him so serious and scary, which always confused me, because he was the man I could always make laugh, could always play grade school hand games with (have you ever ever ever in your long legged life met a long legged sailor with a long legged wife...), collapsing with laughter when we got through the whole thing flawlessly. He was the man who walked me down the aisle to meet my husband, who was knighted for his work as a judge, who was diagnosed with cancer the same year, who lived eleven years more, long enough to see both my children, to laugh and be silly with my son, who was four when he died, and to rest his head on top of my baby daughter's curly crown, breathing in the blessing of seeing her, too.
This man is the reason I never go too far off course. I hear his voice in my head, coaching us on how to live with integrity, with independence, how to face down battles and make peace with missteps and fear. In temperament, I am like my dad. I am so lucky to have had him, and to have his voice in my memory coaching me even now, to have the vision of his head thrown back in laughter, his eyes squinting with enjoyment.
Happy birthday, Daddy. Today you would have been 89. I'm glad you were ours.