Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

It’s your birthday. The first one you are spending in heaven. A bit better than last year, huh? I know from my Facebook memories we were praying you would pass the swallow test. I am glad we did not know what would come ahead. Having hope was good.

It’s your first birthday since I have been born I haven’t gotten to speak to you. Well, except for that first year of my life when I was almost four months old and I may have babbled. But you still got the message that year, didn’t you? I may have babbled to you at other times. I seem to remember you mentioning it. You usually tolerated it well. And heard me out and pretended it made sense.

Birthdays weren’t important to you. They really weren’t. The years I was in college and the years I lived out of town and called and asked to speak to you (I always had to ask for you, because if anyone else was in the house, you would not answer the phone), you would listen to my exuberant birthday wishes, say a bemused “Thank you, Kimberley” and then “Do you want to talk to your mother?” You’d not wait for my answer, but hand the phone back to her.  It always made us laugh. Talking on the phone was not your thing. Even to your most precious daughter. You didn’t see the sense of having a long conversation on it.

You didn’t get traditional birthday cakes. That was not what you loved and Mom indulged you. You preferred an apple pie or a cobbler. With vanilla ice cream, of course. Maybe an apple cake. Never the frothed up and iced up traditional birthday cake with candles.

To be the center of attention and the recipient of the Happy Birthday song? I suspect it was torture for you. (I kind of understand that one.) As we kids got older I don’t recall us doing it often. But then the next generation came and you had to suffer through it again for your grandchildren’s sake. I think that was far more tolerable for you. You did love those grandchildren…..and you had mellowed out about such things so I don’t think you suffered much then. You enjoyed their enjoyment of celebration.

You being you, and our family being our family, it is not a big birthday celebration for you I miss today, because our birthday celebrations are usually reserved for kids. But this, the anniversary of the day you were born (or was it?….there was a bit of confusion there), you have been on my mind all day. Work has been busy, so that took a lot of my attention. But you were with me all day. I could have spent the whole day grieving your death, but if my mind went there I stopped it. Grieving on this day misses the most important point.

While you didn’t particularly get much pleasure out of your birthday, I do. Your birthday was my gift. I am privileged to be your daughter. I was able to celebrate your birth in some way with you (even if it was only a 15-second phone call) for 56 years. So many don’t get that chance. You were a good man. Someone consistent in how they lived their life. Someone I could always count on. Stubborn as a mule. The least funny person in our family (bless your heart.) Tolerant of the humor of the rest of us….even if at your expense…though mostly you ignored our funny selves. You were one of the smartest people I have ever met and someone who always just dealt with the logic. You didn’t get the emotional side of life much. But you took care of us well and kept us on an even keel. We were loved purely and without doubt. In the Dad lottery, I got you. The best prize.

So to apply logic to it all, in my own way, this should not be a day about your death at all, but a day to celebrate your birth.  I am so glad you were born. I am glad you chose to have children and gave me life. I am grateful for all the memories…and all the things you taught me. (Like how to stalk people with cameras. And the finer points of basketball.) You took fatherhood seriously. You took most things seriously. You were stable and honest. You didn’t waste time on anxiety. It served you well. It served us all well.  I’m trying to emulate that….though I don’t have it quite to your level.

I asked Mom if we should do anything to commemorate your day. She said she would prefer it be quiet. Surely that is what you would have wanted. You were private and quiet. Well, unless we were in trouble. Then you could get very loud.

Today I am remembering those things that remind me of you, and I am smiling. A few tears may be leaking out, but I am trying to keep them to a minimum. Your birth day was a great day. Something to be celebrated, not mourned. Maybe sometime I will come up with a cool way to celebrate this day in a special way. For now, I’ll celebrate quietly. Or try. You know us McKinneys. We’re not that great being quiet.

You changed the world. In a very good and simple way. I am proud of that.

Even now God is with us. In heaven and on earth. We’ll be together again. In the meantime, I will look for signs of you. I will live what you taught me, as best as I can. With my own spin on it, of course. Because really… you never expected me to do it all your way, now, did you?

I love you. That will never die. Nor will your love for me. It is still here. I feel it. And I know it.


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