My dad would have been ninety-six today, but he died thirteen years ago. It’s a bittersweet day. Bitter because he’s not here with us and sweet because he was here with us.
If he was still alive, he would have enjoyed his birthday cards and they would have been displayed on the buffet in my parents’ home in Cramer Hill.
He would have liked his gifts, but if someone admired one of them, he’d try to press it on the admirer. “Here, take it. I don’t need it.”
I’m laughing at this memory of his generosity. Sometimes a gift wouldn’t last twenty-four hours. I often thought that it was good that no one admired his white summer T-shirt that he would have been wearing on his June birthday or he would have taken it off and given it away, too. He was Number Four of thirteen children and he had experience in sharing.
When the weather got hot this June, I thought of how he would have looked at his tomato plants out back and said that we had to eat the store-bought tomatoes for a bit yet. He would have made iced tea and tomato and cheese sandwiches for me. Like his mom, my Nana, he loved to feed people.
How he would have loved our “new” dog, Finn. Dad could sit for hours petting a dog or cat. Finn would have been even more spoiled than he is now. They’d be best buddies.
I bet he would reminisce about the dogs we’ve had over our lifetimes. I can imagine him chuckling about the time that my first very own dog, Juanita, was mad that we left the house and she opened a cabinet door, took a box of pancake mix, opened it and dragged it over a brand new shag rug. When we came back to the house to find that mess, he laughed and said, “She made pancakes for us. This proves how much she loves us,” and helped me clean it up. That was one of his favorite stories to tell.
Dad sure did love his beagle, Flopsy, and he was sad when he couldn’t take her for walks anymore by himself here in “the Hill.” He had developed Alzheimers at the end of his life and he got lost here in Cramer Hill and kind people brought him home.
What really gets me is how much Dad would have loved his great-granddaughter who celebrated her first birthday this spring. Nora likes to eat and he would have been in his glory–making her scrambled eggs and feeding them to her. Her mom doesn’t want her to eat sweets, but I fear he might have sneaked Nora a bite of cookie. “Don’t tell your mom,” he’d say. That’s what he often said to my brothers and me when he let us stay up late when Mom went to PTA.
Dad wouldn’t have been surprised like everyone else that we still live in Camden. He was born here, grew up here, worked here and raised his family here. He even died here in Cooper Hospital. His old neighborhood friends moved, but he made friends with the new neighbors. He liked people. He liked Camden.
I don’t know if people who die know anything about the people still living. I hope they do–at least, the good things. How nice it would be if he knew that I am remembering him today–as always–and still love and miss him. Happy Birthday, Daddy.