Over a year ago my Dad made a friend here in town, let's call her Sweet Lady. It's been fun for him when he comes to visit to have someone to go 'serindipping' with during the day. She also happens to go to the same church I've been attending. Usually we don't see each other since I'm at the early service and she goes to the later one.
Yesterday she slipped into the seat next to me and whispered, "Is your Dad ok?"
I was confused, "I think so, why?"
She said her recent email to him had bounced back and then she continued, "His birthday is soon, right? I sent him a gift and wanted to make sure he received it." HIS BIRTHDAY!!? oops.
I exclaimed (in a whisper), "Sweet Lady, you just saved my life! I totally forgot about it. His birthday is tomorrow." She seemed a bit shocked at my total depravity in forgetting my father's birthday. What she didn't realize is that she'd saved me from extravagant extortion.
The summer after my mother died, every member of my family forgot my birthday. Mom had always accused us of being thoughtless, but she'd suffered in silence much of the time. I had no such compunction. So I held it over them all and forced them make up for it (at least in guilt if not in gifts). I visited my Dad and made him pay for a guide and come with me for an outdoor rock climbing adventure. If I forget his birthday now, it's at least a $100 penalty.
So I called him today like the thoughtful daughter I am.
He mournfully commented that my birthday present to him had not yet arrived. I laughed and confessed to my thoughtlessness.
He pounced, "Well then, our contract states that you owe me..."
"Wait!" I jumped in, "I take it back. I know what to give you and you'll get it today. I'm giving you a Kindle gift certificate and I'll email it to you."
He paused, "Hmm...that's an acceptable alternative. Fine."
During our call, I also did something I've never done before. On this memorial day, after having supper club last night with a friend in the Army reserves, I thanked my Dad for serving his country and helping to keep us safe.
He joked, "I was wondering when you'd ever thank me." He served in the Army as a translator from Russian to English during the Cold War. He's been stationed in Germany to overhear and translate the Russian walkie-talkie chatter. He continued in all seriousness, "We knew we were on the front line and that what we were doing was determining if WWIII should ever start. After dinner many of us would volunteer for extra hours. We knew it mattered."
I commented that going to the International Spy museum (in DC) with him had been the first time I'd realized that my Dad WAS a veteran. Of the Cold War. No blood, but the stakes were high and the service mattered.
Remembering those who serve their country in many unsung capacities. Happy Birthday, Dad and many thanks.