A birthday card from my dear, departed dad

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Author’s note: My kid spent today with his grandmother. Apparently, while he was teaching her how to post to Facebook, the two of them wished me happy birthday, even though that event took place in February. It was a trial post, one that I could have easily removed had I been faster, but before I knew it, I got a couple birthday wishes, so I left it up.

Then, while looking for something else, I rediscovered this post I wrote three years ago on my real birthday — Feb. 17 —  on another site on which I sometimes post.

For those who believe in serendipity, the Facebook birthday wish from my mother and my rediscovering this post today — written before the birth of The Livingston Post — made a harmonious convergence of the best kind. Both made me smile.

 

As I watched the snow falling outside, my thoughts turned to big snowstorms of the past. I remembered the winter I was pregnant with my son, when it snowed a few inches every day for three weeks straight. We all moved slowly through the kind of hard, dreary winter days that send those with means on cruises to warmer climes, leaving those of us without dreaming of spring.

My mind wandered back to the biggest snowfall I’ve ever seen, coming when I was a young child, when big storms arrived like huge surprises, catching us off guard.

The snow fell fast and furious that storm, and the kids in my neighborhood bundled up to joyfully carve forts out of the huge drifts of snow. As we reveled in our bounty, adults dug frantically to free themselves.

My father, then a very young man, tall and handsome, full of energy and good cheer, dug out the truck he bought for the little home improvement business that would soon bankrupt him. After he liberated it, he took orders for bread and milk from the neighbors and made a dash through the nearly undriveable streets to the nearest market, driving that little truck as if it were a motorized, hot-rod sled.

I smiled as I watched the snow falling outside my house. The cup of coffee I held was warming me as much as that memory of my dad, who died three years ago. Since his death, I’ve walked around with this gaping hole inside me, a hole that’s been difficult to fill with much more than grief. Holidays, special days and events, random memories of my dad reduce me to tears. But instead of tears this time, the memory blanketed me with a satisfying sense of peace.

That night, I dreamed of my dad. I awoke not sad, as I usually do when I’ve dreamed of him. Instead, I felt calm and happy. Try as I might, though, I couldn’t remember details of the dream; they hung just beyond my reach. But I felt like I was a little girl again, with my tiny hand tucked safely inside my father’s big, strong grip.

I wanted to tell my mother about the dream, but I didn’t. Talk about my dad mostly reduces her to tears, and even though this dream was so comforting to me, I didn’t want her to cry. I kept it to myself, like a sweet secret to be revealed at the right moment.

My mother, who doesn’t drive a car, relies on my sister and me to get her where she needs to go. The day after the dream, I called her to see if she was interested in grabbing dinner at one of the local diners.

“Sure,” she said. “Are you going anywhere else?”

The question was her way of asking me to take her to the store.

“I need to pick up some milk,” I said. “But I’m happy to take you anywhere you need to go.”

“Are you thinking about going to Nick’s Market?” she said.

“I’ll take you wherever you want,” I said, knowing full well she’d not ask me to take her anywhere I didn’t say I was already going. “Yeah, I can get something there.”

“Are you thinking about going anywhere else? Like to the drug store?” she asked.

“I don’t need anything there, but I’ll wait in the car for you if you want to run inside,” I said.

“Well, I got you this card for you for your birthday,” she said. “And I picked it because the words were so nice, just what I wanted to say.”

I’ve taken my mother card shopping for years, so I know the effort she puts into choosing just the right one, and the joy she feels when she finds the perfect card, with words that say precisely what her heart is feeling. It’s what makes getting a card from her always so very special.

“So are you saying you want to get me a different birthday card? Maybe one with words that aren’t so nice,” I said, laughing.

“Well, it’s just that…” she hesitated for a moment. “It’s just that the card says ‘From Both of Us.’ I didn’t realize it when I bought it.”

My mind flashed first to my memory of my dad dashing off to get groceries for the neighbors, like a knight in a shiny pickup truck, then to my dream of him. And now this card, from both my parents.

“I think Dad’s wishing me a happy birthday,” I told her. “You don’t have to get me another card. I think Dad helped you pick that card for me.

“I was thinking the same thing,” she said. “But I didn’t know what you’d think.”

Then I told her about my dream and how it left me feeling good, and for the first time since my father died, it seemed, she didn’t cry when we talked about him.

Thanks for the birthday wish, dad.

About Maria Stuart 71 Articles

Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse.

3 Comments

  1. This is a wonderful story, Maria. Grief eventually morphs into a nice warm comforter that doesn’t cost $8 worth of quarters in the dryer at the laundromat.

  2. Wonderful story. Brought tears to my eyes. Your dad was so funny. I’m glad I was able to know him just a little!

  3. Loved this the first time I read it, and love it even more now. Love the thought of your mom tackling FB too.

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