Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad!

The day before yesterday was my dad's 100th birthday. I did not allow the fact that he's been dead for 38 years to get in the way of the birthday party I threw for him.

The idea for the party came to me about 5 weeks ago, just as a ‘wouldn’t it be fun’ type of thing. But as the date grew closer I began to realize that, for some reason, this was a very important thing and I HAD to do it.

It felt important that all my kids be at the party, and it was fortunate they all could make it. We decorated the house with Happy Birthday signs and banners, and I got out all the old pictures of him and put them all around, arranging one long row of them on the mantle that showed his life from babyhood through old age. Another row of them was on the piano, and showed a long ago trip from California to Texas with his extended family of grannies, aunts, uncles and countless cousins.

I also printed out some of his Texan sayings (most of them rather crude) and taped them on the walls in various rooms. The kids are familiar with most of these, but it was fun to go around reading them (and for me, remembering him saying them) and laughing.

We burned a CD with some of his favorite songs and some of the music that had come out the year he was born; we played it all evening. I talked to the family a bit about his life and times....since he'd passed on before any of them were born.

It was wild for me to think that when he was born Theodore Roosevelt was president of the United States, the Wright Brothers had taken to the air only 3 years before, the US Postal Service had yet to issue the first postage stamps, Nickolodeons (the five-cent theaters) were the hottest form of popular entertainment, and possessing a car and/or a telephone was a rarity.

So we talked about him, his life and times. We played the CD and enjoyed the songs. Then we had dinner. Later we sang Happy Birthday to him and had cake and ice cream. My son-in-law made us all laugh when he said, "I've never before been to a birthday party for someone who wasn't there....I don’t quite know what to do…..Like…..who blows out the candles?" I decided we ALL did – since we were all his bloodline or beloveds of his bloodline. So we did…. And after that, something quite unexpected and unplanned popped out of my mouth: I told dad he was free to go on into his next life now, if that's what he wanted. Having this just pop out of me really surprised me, as I'd never given a thought to him NOT having moved forward......

As the evening wore on, I became increasingly aware that a ritual was being enacted – this was an ancestor ritual that had needed to be done. It was important -- not just to me, but FOR him, as well. And having done it up good and proper, I felt really happy, and satisfied that I’d done a good job.

Altogether, it was a very interesting evening.

Goodbye, Dad; we'll never forget you!


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