Birthday Letters

On January 16, 1943 my dad was born.  I don’t know anything about his birth.  Whether he was born in a hospital or at home.  Whether he was a good baby or a tyrant.  How much he weighed or if he sucked his thumb.

Today if he were still living, he would have turned 70 years old.

He wrote himself a birthday letter a fews years back.   I happen to have a copy.

Jan-1998

Happy Birthday, Bob—–Happy 55 years.  A real milestone.  I feel like celebrating this b.d.,  unlike my 30th, which went by unnoticed.  Unlike my 40th which went by with hardly a ripple or even my 50th, supposedly the biggie, hardly made a dent on my psyche.

But 55 is the short side of the century mark.  So that makes it a milestone in my books, and I’m finally at the age where it makes not a tinkerers damn about anyones books but my own.

A brief synopsis—–I was born into a family of five siblings, a bootlegger father, and my mother was a housewife.  My family was mildly dysfunctional to say the least, my parents divorced when I was 11 and my mother struggled to keep her brood together.

I went to High school here in town, finally got laid, got drunk and enlisted in The Marine Corps just a few days after graduation.  Spent four years in The Corps, traveled around the world, went to work for various construction companies in West Texas and never once let college cross my mind.  Made a lot of parties—-a few friends and generally went around with my heart on my sleeve.

Anne, my wife and I had a wild, roller coaster, wonderful relationship from day one when we met in The Crystal Lounge bar, a downstairs dark, dank place where people drank, fought and loved with equal fervor.

Anne had two boys from a previous marriage that I was too young and dumb to see the joy in.  We later had two daughters that have remained the light of my life to this day.  The boys have forgiven my shortcomings and remain friendly toward me, too.  Thanks boys.

55 years—-that must seem like an eternity to someone in their 20’s or thirties, but to me it has been but a short journey on this meandering train we call life.  Meandering, wandering, everlooking for the path of least resistance, just like the nameless creek near Hoover, Texas where I gathered clover blossoms to plait into a braid for Anne’s hair.

                                                                                                                                                  ~1998~

Happy Birthday Dad—-happy 70th.  Two birthdays have now passed since you left us.  And lots has happened.  I miss you, but it does get easier with time, but there are still days that sadness is all around me, thick as fog.   I love you more than I ever have, and I’m so thankful for your writings that you left us.  I feel I know you better now than I ever did in real life.  I wonder why we feel like we can’t open up to others, and especially the ones who love us most?  I know I’m just as guilty.

You were a good dad.  That’s probably all  you  wanted to hear while you were living, and I don’t know if I ever told you.  But you were.   I wouldn’t change it for anything.

You tried your best, I know that now.  It’s certainly not easy being a parent, I know that now too.

I never realized just how tender you were.  You were always so tough and big and strong, that I guess I didn’t think about your feelings much.  I’m sorry for that.

Thanks for being a number one dad to me.  Thanks for supporting me in everything I ever did.   Thanks for taking time to spend with me, even if it was laying in the floor taking kissing bets during a bowling tournament on T.V. or skipping rocks on the Illinois.  I have fond memories, and those are what I carry with me now.  It’s all I’m left with, the memories and your stories.

You’d really love Emma.  Sometimes I imagine that you are here and see you laugh at her or hug her close.  She reminds me of you sometimes.  Especially now as she’s learning to walk.  She’s got this stumble about her, that’s very Grandpa-esque.  Or sometimes they way she lays while she’s sleeping or a look on her face makes me think of you.  You are a part of her.

I know you’re in Heaven and I’m going to be there someday too.  It’s good that this life isn’t all we’ve got, isn’t it?  So, until we meet again Dad, enjoy yourself, and I’ll do the same.  There’s much happiness here still, and memories to make with others.

I love you bigger than Hog Eyes and Sauerkraut Mississippi.

Until then……

Love,

Angel

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J-Dub’s Burfday

Today my sweet husband turns 38 years old.

Remember when you were a little kid and made homemade cards?  I’m still doing that.  Especially after I’ve already gotten home from town and forgotten the dang thing.

He’s not home yet, because he’s still working. 

That’s what he does.

  Works his butt off.  The word lazy is not in his vocabulary.  Unless he’s talking to me.  Nah, I’m only kidding.  He may think it, but he doesn’t say it.  He knows when its best to hold the tongue. 

He has so many wonderful qualities. 

He’s a good drummer.

He’s a great cook.

A patient uncle.

Whose not afraid to get a little dirty.

A handsome devil.

A loving husband.

And my best friend.

Happy birthday, Jason!

Pop

To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.”  ~Robert Brault

I like grandpas.  There’s just something so appealing to me about them.  The way they tuck in their shirts and wear their pants high on their waist.  The comb tucked inside their shirt pocket.  The magical way they make their thumb disappear. 

If my paternal grandfather (Pop) were alive today, we would be eating cake and ice cream in celebration of  his 112th birthday. He was born on June 29, 1899, and wanted to live during three centuries.  He didn’t make it to Y2K, unfortunately, he was a long shot from it, passing away in 1976, a month before I turned one.

There is only one picture of us together that I’ve ever seen.  We are lying together on a bed.  He’s on his side, and he’s snuggling me in his arms as my cousin stands beside us.

In my life, I’ve felt a little bit cheated not having the opportunity to know him.  From family stories, I know that he was an upstanding fellow, a fiddle player, a poet, and man full of wit.  He wrote poetry, and my grannie told me once he wrote a poem about the local meteorologist who never could get the forecast correct, and sent it to him.  He read it one night during his weather report.

I have an old cookbook given to me by my grannie.   The” receipts” as they called them, are a collection from the pioneers that settled this part of the country and they call for ingredients like oleo and sour milk.  Towards the back, you can learn how to make salve and stink bait, if the notion strikes you. 

Along with a sweet little recipe for a Happy Day that goes like this:

A little dash of water cold, a little leaven of prayer.
A little bit of sunshine gold, dissolved in morning air.
Add to your meal some merriment, add thoughts kith and kin,
And then as a prime ingredient, a plenty of work thrown in.
Flavor it all with essence of love, and a little dash of play;
Then a nice old book and a glance above complete a happy day.

Shouldn’t we all have a daily dose of that?

There among the yellowing pages of this old cookbook, lies a stained, folded piece of paper.

On one side, in a lady’s writing is an unlabeled list of ingredients for something delicious I’m sure.  Butter, sugar, eggs, chopped nuts, dates, flour, soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, unsweet apples.  Almost sounds like a fruit cake doesn’t it?

And then on the other side, in Pop’s old penmanship is a poem:
My kids aint cute as your kids are
To this I will agree
But you dont have to keep rubbin it in
It hurts me cant you see
But heres one thing boy that is right
and youll admit it too
Im smarter by far and hansomer too
Than a silly nut like you

Happy Birthday Pop! 

And what about you?  Was your grandpa your best friend?  Was he mean?  Did he play the banjo?  Was he smart and handsome?  Could he make his thumb disappear?  Or did you, like me,  miss out?

 

 

 

A Marble Cake

She’s 12 today.

A beautiful joy.  Even with a wad of orange gum in her mouth.

She asked if she could have a marble cake.  Sure, you can.  And then she looked at her grandmother, and in her best 12-year-old, you’ve-got-to-be-kiddin-me, pre-teen, on-the-verge-of-knowing-everything voice, she said “You know that’s a KIND of a cake, not a cake with real marbles.”  She may have even rolled her eyes.  

Oh my.

As if my mother, her grandmother, has managed to live 60 some-odd years and not know what a marble cake is. 

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, Hey teenager! Tired of your parents?  Move out, get a job, and pay your own way while you still know everything.

Last night I baked a birthday cake for my niece.  It was one of those beautiful double layer chocolate cakes.  I wish I had a picture to show you, except it was an awful mess lying out in the pasture where I chunked it.  First of all, when I flipped the cake pans over, half the cake stuck to the bottom of the pan leaving lopsided, gouged out layers.  Not the total end of the world, I thought.  Maybe I could level it out and still make it look nice.  Icing it was another problem as crumbs mingled with icing causing a gloppy mess.  Finally to top it off, I picked up a big bite-size chunk of cake and popped it in my mouth.  It may look bad, but at least it tasted good.  Wrong.  I was talking on the phone when I was mixing the batter and, well, I must’ve been a bit side-tracked and doubled or maybe quadrupled the salt.  Salty cake just ain’t all that tasty, let me tell you.

After rinsing my mouth out under the faucet, I picked up the glass cake  stand by the pedestal, carried it out to the pasture, reached back, and slung the cake off the pedestal as far as I could.  I’m sure a coyote had a nice treat last night.  And probably a belly ache.  Today I imagine he’s suffering from hypertension due to an elevated sodium intake.

My husband, who hangs his Superman cap in the closet each night, cooked ribeye steaks, risotto, asparagus, and spinach strawberry salad for my niece’s birthday dinner tonight.

Oh yeah, and he stayed up until 1:30 IN THE MORNING baking  her a lovely cake.

One that came out of the pans beautifully,

Iced wonderfully, and

Tasted divinely.

The best  marble cake I’ve ever had.

Happy Birthday Ashy!

36 years….

I’m 36 years old today.  Only one sentiment can sum it up. 

My life is good.

This birthday had the potential to be an emotional train wreck, as my heart has been tender concerning the recent death of my dad.  Realizing this would be the first birthday of my entire life that he wouldn’t wish me a happy birthday made me semi-dread this day.  But instead it has turned into a day full of blessings.  The past two weeks of my life ,I have become keenly aware of how many people truly care for me.  And it touches me, it truly does.  I am determined to be a better person.

As I reflect on my life and where I stand, I can’t help but have a moment where I pause and think to myself, “Am I middle-aged?”  Of course, my first response is no way, but mathematically speaking, the numbers don’t lie.  The average lifespan of a woman is 78 years.  So class, let’s do a little arithmetic.  36+36=72.  Which means I’m purty dern close.  Pondering this equation leaves me solemn, if only for a minute.  If I allow my mind to pursue the thought of being middle-aged, I must come to grips that my life is half over.   But let’s not dwell on that. 

I’ve still got lots to look forward to.  Good stuff too, not just medicare and daily naps.

Today although I didn’t blow out any candles, I’ve made a few birthday wishes.

For my next 36 years I wish to:

  •  follow my dreams. 
  • love deeper.
  • forgive more.
  • judge less.
  • take better care of my health.
  • put more value in people than things.
  • continue to learn.
  • give to those with less.
  • take no one for granted.
  •  be more patient.
  •  learn to cry in front of people.
  • forget my past hurts.
  •  lose my pride.
  • find my courage.
  • believe in myself.
  • remember how blessed I am.

 Thanks for sharing my birthday with me.

In Memory of My Dad #3

Hello friends,

Here’s a second story from my dad.  This was dated January 27, 1996.  It is called Marking One’s Progress Through the Ages on the Doorjamb of Life.  He had celebrated a birthday 11 days prior.

As I write this I reflect back to the 16th of January.  That was the day that I turned 53 years old. 

For lunch I had a fine piece of catfish, cornbread and fried potatoes, and a mess of turnip greens.  A slice of key lime pie completed the repast, what more could one ask for his birthday meal?

Remember how you loved birthdays as a child?  The presents and the birthday cake.  The thrill of having one day that belonged to you alone.  All this helped to make a wonderful anniversary.

Perhaps the most thrilling was the fact that you were a whole year older.  You had the inch to prove it too.  You stood there proudly, at attention, while your mother marked your progress on the door jamb.  You were inching up on your older sister every year.

Ice cream was the “piece de resistance”.  It was made from real hen eggs and cow’s cream.  They don’t make ice cream like that anymore.  It sat there in a big wooden freezer packed with ice and salt.  A huge layer cake waited there in the background, the multi-colored candles just waiting to be lit and blown out therefore making your wish a cinch on coming true.

But what happens to that pride in growth as we add 40, 50, or even sixty years?  We still lap up the kudos and cards from our friends and relatives, but we make as little fuss as possible over the number of years.

Birthdays are really very traumatic experiences.  Today’s accent is on the young.  Looking, acting and dressing the part make more than a few of us older than our years.  After a fine bite of catfish and cornbread I can almost pull it off too.  So instead of trying to submerge the past, there are those of us that try to preserve and respect it.

It is said that the most catastrophic birthday that we have is the one on the day we are born.  Up until now no one has recorded the innermost workings of a newborn babe’s mind, and that is something that will have to wait a few years before being documented.  They also say that the 40th is the big bombshell for women.  I wouldn’t know about that, but even now on my 53rd, I’m not yet ready to throw in the towel.

So today I feel good about turning 53—despite the sad state the world we are living.  Each new birthday becomes an achievement for me. 

I wonder if our lack of pride for middle-aged birthdays is because we have forgotten that we are still growing.  As each new season passes we have a new set of memories that make us more tolerant and sympathetic toward our fellow-man, and surely we should be for adding another inch of spiritual growth, it is the most important of all.

On my most recent birthday I’ve had a year’s worth of memories, ordinary, yet beautiful to me.  I’ve also had unhappiness, but part of my growing process is learning that no one can grow without his own fair share of unpleasantness.  The lessons I have learned go a long way toward that old saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” 

Each birthday adds to my ability not to worry about mistakes that I might have made during the past year.  next year I’ll try to remedy them, and if they can’t be fixed, so what?  I won’t dwell on them. 

The only birthday that I won’t be proud of, is the one where I back up to that spiritual door jamb and find that I haven’t grown an inch. 

A Special Lady

Today, in just a few short hours, my family will be celebrating my grandmother’s 93rd birthday over in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.  I couldn’t  be there, but wanted to send her some happy birthday wishes.

{sending happy birthday wishes now}

Isn’t she beautiful? 

 Her name is Mattie Dimple Calico.  If that isn’t the best name in the world, I don’t know what is. 

She’s a gem. 

The older I get, the more I realize how important family is.  I cherish my grandmother and the memories I have of our times together.

Happy 93rd Grannie! 

I am so thankful to be blessed with you in my life. 

You’re a hoot and a tough old coot, and you’re always making me laugh.  

 I hope when I am old, I look and feel just like you!

I love you!  

 Peace!