My dad died on his 64th birthday, 16 years ago.
You can’t see it in the picture above, but I was 9 months pregnant in the shot, taken just days before I went into labor. On July 19th, 1983, the date of my dad’s 50th birthday, I was at Evanston Hospital, laboring oh-so-slowly on the long march toward the birth of my first child. That little girl did not make her appearance until lunchtime of the following day, July 20th, 1983.
My daughter’s birthday is a next-door neighbor to this day on the calendar – this day that contains both my dad’s birthday and the anniversary of his passing. Perhaps because it is a milestone birthday for my daughter, who turns 30 this Saturday, I am remembering her birth. And one of the sweetest memories of that sweet and sacred time in my life has my dad smack-dab in the middle of it.
The day after Rachel was born, my dad snuck into the hospital during non-visiting hours. This was back in the days when when when visitors were most certainly not allowed on the maternity floor except during specific times of day. My dad told me he “just so happened” to be in the neighborhood, and thought he’d chance stopping by and trying to tip toe past the nurses station so he could see how I was doing and snuggle his first grandchild.
I can’t remember a single thing we talked about – or even if we talked much at all. My dad wiped away tears of joy as he cradled both his granddaughter and I in his arms.
It is one of my favorite memories of him.
Remembering brings tears on each year’s birthday/deathday anniversary each year. Some years, a few. Others, like this year, more than a few. But the passing of time has helped me recognize that each tear carries a measure of the joy my dad expressed 30 years ago that day in my hospital room.