A Birthday Wish

Today is our birthday and we're sitting around your kitchen table. The small round frame is pushed up against the wall, as it's always been, surrounded by three chairs. I watch the feeding finches through the window and am strangely comforted by the familiar aroma of stale cigarette smoke lingering on the wall paper. You've broken out the E.L. Fudge and Chips Ahoy cookies, offering both to me, but I stick with the elves. Even in adulthood, it wouldn't be right to choose a chocolate chip cookie from your secret stash. 

Or maybe we're anchored in Lake Michigan, watching the beach-goers bob in the waves like buoys just offshore, marking the waters safe for swimming. Your deck shoes and plaid button down t-shirts are as much a part of the water as the Walleye and Bass swimming below. I close my eyes, lift my face to the sun, and think how wonderfully lucky I am to share this day with my favorite person.

Whichever way we spend the day, you can bet we're toasting it with scotch on the rocks. History would dictate it be Dewar's, but as it's a special day I imagine we're sipping a deliciously smoky glass of Laphroaig. I make a comment about how glad I am we've grown out of the tickle monster. You tell me I'll never be too old to play young. We share a look, our eyes laughing, and my memory takes me back to summers spent paddling alongside your boat in open water and winters full of 3D jigsaw puzzles. So much time has passed since we last blew out candles on our shared birthday cake, though you've rarely left my side.Image

When I packed my car up and drove off to college, you filled in the few empty spaces as we crooned along with Louis Armstrong. Do you remember that weekend freshman year, when I was feeling particularly homesick? You put that cribbage board in my shopping cart and took me back to hours spent in your kitchen stubbornly failing to shuffle the deck of playing cards into a bridge. I learned patience before I succeeded, and maybe that was the lesson you were really trying to teach me. 

When work and school and extracurriculars found me feeling overwhelmed and underprepared, my mind would turn to run the two track to your refuge of belly laughs and discarded bowls of popcorn kernels. You'd remind me of my purpose and strengthen my drive to grow and succeed. Later, we'd stand together in Scotland on the greens of St. Andrews marveling in the history of the land and feeling the most profound sense of humility. 

You've approved of every boy and man I've dated, sometimes it was tough to pass your test. I know you came west with me, though I'm not sure how - my car resembled those those jars of marbles and sand used by middle school teachers to put fulfillment into perspective. Every time I wanted to give up and go home because I felt like a minnow in the Pacific, you urged me to stay the course. 

Today is our birthday, and I'm sitting in my backyard in Nashville throwing a tennis ball with my dog and asking your advice on dealing with ground moles. This is just small talk, though. It's the 1st day of my 28th year and after all that we've gone through and all that I've learned, I want to know if you're proud of me, but I don't know how to ask. Instead I'll raise my glass of scotch and wish you the happiest of birthdays, I look forward to sharing my 28th year with you. Happy birthday Grandpa.