Today is my Dad's birthday. It's not the actual anniversary of his birth, but his '2nd birthday' as he used to refer to it. Today marks the 233rd Birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Dad was a Marine. I know, I know, 'Once a Marine always a Marine', but Dad passed away 10 years ago. So 'was' seems an appropriate term.
Dad loved his birthdays, both of them. That is where I learned to love my birthday. Not that a kid needs a reason to love their birthday, but he taught me to always enjoy my birthday no matter how many years it was that I was celebrating. He taught me that my birthday was my own special day and that I should treat it as a special holiday. Through the years, I have realized that on this and many other topics, Dad was right. He was never about presents and cake, just about remembering and gesturing.
Dad always celebrated the Marine Corps Birthday. He always took a vacation day from work for each of his birthdays, although he rarely took a sick day. As a child he would always convince his mother to let him stay home from school as his present. None of his 7 siblings ever got the day off.
Dad never reminded us his 2nd birthday was coming. He never expected presents. He just wanted us to remember and acknowledge. Year after year we would wake up for school, enter the kitchen, see Dad and say "Why are you home?". "It's my birthday." was the response. Oops, forgot again!
Today I have not forgotten. Nor have I since I reached adulthood.
Dad was a real special kind of guy. Lots of people think that about their dad, but he really was. He was Joe six-pack. Jack of some trades, master of none. He was a dependable friend, a completely devoted husband and a great Dad.
Dad never gave himself credit for being very smart. He hated school and struggled with his classes. He used to call himself a 'dummy', but he was one of the smartest people I have ever met. He would discuss any subject. If it was something he didn't know about, he wanted to listen and learn. If it was a subject he disagreed about, he wanted to understand the other side. And if it was something that required thought, he was a man you wanted to hear from.
Dad was always extremely well thought out. He could always offer you a different prospective and a reason. You would never walk away without food for thought. He was a good sounding board and a great counselor.
Dad is also where I developed my sense of humor. He loved a good joke, especially if the players weren't in on it. He derived enjoyment from small pleasures and was self entertaining. Dad would stir up trouble just to watch it play out and have a good laugh. As we got older he would fill us in and have us enjoy the laugh with him as we watched the scene play out. Most of it was gut busting funny. He knew how to stir a pot. He could also entertain the room with the best stories. He was a one of a kind.
Dad understood how to handle a teenager. He knew how to get through to us when screaming and grounding were no longer deterrents
and abuse had been outlawed. Once, and only once, on a Friday night when I was 18 ,and home from college for the summer, I stayed out all night all night at a local bar with friends (don't gasp like you never). I came home barely in time to change into my work clothes and in no condition to go to work at 6 a.m. Dad sat at the kitchen and said nothing more than 'good morning" when I entered the house. I changed and left for work ( a 2 block walk) and endured 8 hrs in an unforgiving, un-airconditioned kitchen in the city during August. Needless to say, by the time my shift was over at 2, I was ready for some rest and recuperation. I was sick to my stomach, sweaty, head pounding and exhausted. All I wanted was to hit my bed.
After I entered the house and before I could hit the sheets, Dad said to me "I need you to do me a favor". That was the unspoken kiss of death and I knew it. "I need my whites(laundry) washed for the morning". After that it was 'could you shine up my shoes, take care of the kitchen, the rug needs some attention, and the list when on and on until he showed some mercy around 10 p.m. I got the message. I never pulled that trick again.
There have been many times since his death that I have wished for his council, advice, comfort. There have been times that I have longed for his wisdom and company.
Today I will continue a tradition that began when I finally started remembering this birthday. I will bake a Birthday cake. I will not let the Weasels have any until they sing Happy Birthday to the Marine Corps. I think Dad would get a kick out of that.
I could go on until this became a book. There is so much more I could say say. So many more stories to tell. But what it boils down to is this; I love you Dad, Happy Birthday.
And a Happy Birthday to the Marine Corps and all Marines. Thank you for your your service. Semper Fi.
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