My mom has been cleaning out her and Dad’s closet the past few days, and has come across some precious nuggets from the past. She texted me today to tell me she had dug up an old birthday card I’d given her some years back. I’m not generally one to give heartfelt, wordy, or tear-jerker cards for birthdays, and this card she had found was true to form. The front reads “In Swedish, the word for ‘Mom’ and the word for ‘Love’ are the same word” (open card) “Also ‘Cookie’ and ‘Tambourine,’ but those don’t really support my point. Happy Birthday!” Mom wrote in her text that she laughed for ten minutes at my “whacko” sense of humor.
In the same closet-cleaning adventure, my mom came across an old box of letters, and found one in particular dated May 30, 1979. My first birthday. Mom emailed me a copy of this letter, and it made me melt inside. My 23 year old dad, fresh out of college, had written to my 21 year old mom who still lived at home, “I came by for a while today to relieve Tim- he needed the rest.” (No doubt from babysitting me all day, bless my uncle’s heart) “…I already gave Miccah a great big birthday kiss, but give her another one from me after she blows out her candles. She is so beautiful and I love her very much. PS. I love you. Danny” My parents were married shortly after my fourth birthday, after my mom realized that nobody would love her or love me the way he would. And of course, she realized that she’d never love anyone the way she loved him.
Every time I read that letter, hot tears stream down and sting my cheeks and my heart. I’ve seen glimpses of this tender man when he hugs my nieces, but I’m not sure when he stopped being that man with me. Maybe it happened when I moved out on my own while going to college. Maybe it was even before that. It could have been when we moved from Virginia to North Carolina in the middle of my Sophomore year of high school. I was a horrible, sullen, and angry 15 year old girl. Whenever it was that it happened, I was no longer that little girl with blond curls that needed help with her math homework, French pronunciation, or science fair projects. I was no longer his helper that, like her father, ignored the pictured, multi-lingual instructions to build something, or his silent companion in the garage as he worked on various car ailments, listening to classic rock, or his advocate that the latest Schwarzenegger movie we picked out wasn’t too violent. I may be completely independent and far away from home, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need to hear my dad tell me I’m beautiful or tell me he loves me very much. And maybe I still need to ask him for advice, and I could certainly use his help on some projects out here.
I did actually get my dad a tear-jerker card for his birthday, which was a few weeks ago on July 5th. It made me cry in the aisle of Hallmark, because it struck so true to our relationship. I knew I had to get it, despite the expectation of a ridiculous card. I asked Mom today if he liked his card and she wrote back, “He loved it, Miccah. It choked him up.”