My mama will testify to this; my daddy was my best friend. We were a unit; large crowds, new people, or anything he was doing I was his shadow.
After we lost him in 2009, it was hard to celebrate. I would celebrate early and just get through the day. Sometimes I would spend the day hiking, people watching, or watching TV shows or movies we used to watch. After a few years, it got easier to celebrate the day. And now I have a different understanding of the day.
This day is special because it’s the day I got a best friend. A day I choose to celebrate not my birth but rather the nineteen years I had with a great man who loved his family and doted on his girls.
He was my confidante, quiet protector, occasional partner in trouble, and role model. We would have long talks about music, movies, history, psychology, and life as I got older.
He taught me the importance of choices, how you respond to a situation, and in being present when you’re with someone or any moment really. We would go play miniature golf and to fun eclectic shops whenever we went on trips with the family. He taught me the importance of being around your extended family and knowing where I come from.
He was a chaplain but rather than tell me how to be a Christian; he showed me everyday. He made sure that I understood the importance of my faith being exactly that my faith. How you choose to live your life each day and the relationships you build are how you best share God’s love.
He was honest; when I asked why I was always involved in so many activities - to keep me out of trouble. And yes, he tried to protect me from the darkness of the world, even when that darkness was the cancer that plagued a lot of his life.
We bonded on family ties to North Carolina that changed how we said certain words and our specific taste in barbecue or sodas. We somehow always found a way to have crab legs on our birthday, play skee-ball in arcades, and get me a new stuffed animal from Build-A-Bear nearly every year until my sophomore year of high school.
He would pretend I didn’t sneak downstairs to watch TV when my stomach issues kept me home from school. I would pretend he did everything my mama had asked him to do when I would check on him after school when he became home bound my last two years of high school.
So our birthday is no longer filled with sadness just a twinge; a slight ache of something missing. Our birthday is a commemoration of a life well lived, a great family, and a woman trying her best to do the same.
It’s better. It’s easier in a way.
And if I spend the day balled up in the corner; my daddy would “Gibbs-smack” me from heaven.
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