Birthdays affect people differently. They have never been something that I have celebrated with much enthusiasm. If I could explain the reason to you, I would. But I can’t.
Several of my adult years have been spent alone. That could be a contributing factor to wanting my birthday celebration to either be non-existent or at the most, low-key. Saying that, if you are reading this on the day it comes out in print on June 15, this is the 57th day I have celebrated my birthday. I never dreamed I’d make it this far.
I don’t want to leave the impression I’m unappreciative of birthdays. It’s quite the contrary. I’m thankful and blessed for each one. After being diagnosed with ALS at a young age, baseball great Lou Gehrig said, “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” I feel the same, except I call blessings what he calls luck. I don’t need gifts. The things that make me smile no longer have a price. God has provided me all my needs and many of my wants. I can only fold my hands and bow my head, giving Him thanks for it all.
Dr. William Nichols brought me into this world in 1962. Dr. Nichols was a prominent physician in Canton during that time. He was someone I got to know later in life who always had my respect and the respect of many. I don’t know if he had heard enough of my crying at birth or what. But Dr. John Cauble, another prominent Canton doctor, had the pleasure or curse of listening to my whining about my minor ailments up until the day he retired. I’m not a great patient. There is no doubt that patients like me made Dr. Cauble’s retirement that much sweeter. I still see Dr. Cauble from time to time at the golf course. He is always pleasant and friendly. Like Dr. Nichols, he’s a gentleman who has earned the respect of the community through his charitable heart. When we talk, I no longer bother him with my medical complaints. The man has done his time.
My birthday has always coincided with Father’s Day. If it’s not the exact day, it is usually close. This is another day I never gave the attention to that I should have. My Daddy was a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of guy. His expectations were high, and they were non-negotiable. While most of my friends looked at him as a “cool” Dad, being his son gave me a completely different perspective. Cool was not a word I would have used to describe him growing up. I always felt his expectations were unreasonable. A couple of times, I got cocky and spoke to him with disrespect that I knew would end badly for me. How stupid am I? He wasn’t a man that made idle threats. I would pay for those comments and learn from them. Later on in life, I would regret them.
It could be that Daddy knew I was going to face adversity during my life. Maybe he thought since I was the oldest, he needed to prepare me for a day he wouldn’t be there. There is always the possibility he was getting me ready to hold his hand as he passed from this life unto the next, which was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It isn’t like you see in the movies. There was no accompanying music. There were no machines. No buzzers went off. It was just he and I holding hands as the angels came down to remove his soul from his body. I cried and apologized to him for being weak in that moment. I knew he would want me to “dry it up” before Mama and Craig got there. So, I did exactly that. I wanted Daddy to be proud.
If he sounds cold to you, you’re wrong. Just like I was wrong for so many years. He was a man, far from perfect, that raised his boys to have respect for others. He held us boys accountable for everything we did wrong. He was a man who would protect his family with his life. Daddy loved us boys like children ought to be loved. He wasn’t a perfect husband, but he loved our Mama. Most importantly, although not necessarily a religious man, he was saved and loved God. Happy Father’s Day in heaven Daddy!