Today is my husband’s birthday. Today would also be my Dad’s 99th birthday if he were still alive. They were born on the same day, 40 years apart.
Every year after my marriage when I called my dad to wish him a happy birthday, I’d tell him, “You know, today is John’s birthday, too.” “I didn’t know that,” Dad would say, “Next year I’ll send him a card.” Then the next year we’d have the same discussion all over again. Dad was in his mid-70’s when I married John and beginning to show the effects of several TIA’s.
I don’t believe in astrology, but I have to admit it’s spooky how much like Dad John is. Dad, like John, used to know how to do all the basic household repairs. I never even knew it was possible to hire a painter until one of my high school classmates got a summer job as one. Dad and his brothers could do rough carpentry, masonry, painting, wallpapering, basic plumbing and the like. This is not to say they could do them well, mind you. I have fond memories of some of Dad’s work-arounds in my first house. My ex-husband did not know which end of a hammer to use, so when Dad made his yearly visit he would work on our to-do list, and if we didn’t have one, he made his own. One year he cut down a baby magnolia tree in my front yard. He also got poison ivy in the process, so it was hard to be mad at him.
John has more training than Dad in his repair skills, not to mention more power tools, but I still find myself living with some interesting results of his problem solving. I occasionally point out that it is possible to hire people to do these jobs, only to get looked at as if I have three heads, no two of which are working correctly at the time.
The other way in which they were alike is that John, like Dad, has a weird sense of humor, and like my dad, often takes it too far. I find myself sounding uncomfortably like my mom, who I always thought was a grouch. Now I am starting to understand why. You can only get so many quips in response to a serious question before the beady eyes and stare set in.
Unlike John, Dad was the master of the shaggy dog story. He would start out relating a story he had heard on the news or an incident that had happened to a friend, and three or four minutes into it, there would be a punchline. I never knew if he set it up that way all along or if he was telling real news stories and personal anecdotes when a funny twist occurred to him. He did this all my life and I still rarely saw them coming.
John on the other hand, goes in for really bad puns and other quick quips. Most of the time, he has me laughing, but not when I just want an answer to, “Where did you put my mail?”
The one way they are different is that Dad could sing. He had a beautiful baritone, and any car trip taken with him was to the tune of all our favorites: I’ve Got Sixpence, Life of a Soldier, Walking My Baby Back Home, When I Brought Her Apples (the implications of which I never understood until I was grown and gone), Stout-Hearted Men, and other songs of that era. My favorite to hear him sing was When You Walk Through a Storm. Practically my first thought when I heard that my dad had died was that I would never hear him sing again.
John, on the other hand, cannot sing. John singing sounds much like a cat with its tail caught in the door. John can whistle, however. I have never been able to whistle a whole note, let alone a whole tune, but he can. It’s so unfair.
So happy birthday to my wonderful husband, and Dad, I miss you.