Yesterday would have been my father’s 55th birthday. It was his favorite time of year, his natal week as he called it, and he’d call me at the beginning of the week, every year, to remind me, though I never needed reminding.
“Heather, it’s your father.” He started every conversation like this, as though I wouldn’t be able to recognize his booming and cheerful voice.
“Hi Dad. I know who you are. I can’t imagine why you’d be calling today…” I’d bait him, because I could just hear the excitement in his voice and I’d make him tell me why he was calling.
“It’s my NATAL WEEK! It’s BIRTHDAY MONTH! Tell your father how much you love him.” He was singing. And shouting.
I’d laugh every time because it never got old with the new year.
“Happy Natal Week, Dad. You know I love you. How are you going to spend your big day?”
He ignored my question and moved on to what I knew he loved most. “Where are your gifts? They must be in the mail.” He’d ask and I knew he really wanted gifts. He loved presents and blowing out candles and people singing to him while admiring him.
I would have paid any amount of money yesterday to be in a room with him, admiring him and laughing with him, giving him trick candles or a tiarra or a fancy wrapped box of smoked, dried meat I’d bring back from Germany for him.
But I wasn’t with him for the fifth birthday since he died and the emptiness without him this year was as awful as the years past, but this year I was lucky enough to spend the day with my sister and my stepmother.
This year, we decided to celebrate his life and to give him the memorial we had been putting off for 5 years.
Katie and I decided to buy him a bench to be put at Fort Foster, facing the ocean, in a quiet spot that we could visit every year. We don’t really need a spot, but we thought it would be nice to have something to touch, to look at, to remember him with and so the bench was perfect. We could sit together in our most favorite spot in the world and talk about missing him and the fun times we used to have and what he’d think about our lives today. And so for us, it was perfect. Even more perfect is that we were able to keep a secret for months and surprise Judy with it on his birthday.
The day was dreary and muggy and filled with fog, laughter and great memories. We all laughed hard together, especially when Katie, as soon as we had set up our picnic lunch, reached in her bag and pulled out something and set it on the table in the middle of us. Before we could even look up she announced,
“So I brought Dad to his birthday party.” I looked over and sure enough, there was my father’s urn on the picnic table. We laughed hard, wished him a happy birthday and went back to sharing memories.
Because bringing your dead father’s remains to the beach to eat lunch with you is totally normal.