It's been, weather-wise, a difficult winter thus far in northern California. Cold, with a fair number of bleak, rainy days. Today is like many others; as I am looking out my window, some very dark clouds have crept over the Santa Cruz mountains, and are now drenching the world around me in a steady, dark rain.
Across the country, a new president is being sworn in, and from what I see on the news - the 'real' news as well as social media - reactions (and behaviour) are mixed. Inauguration day for many in the nation is a "big deal", red-letter day.
For me, it's far from the most important event for the weekend.
If my father were still alive, this weekend, he would be 76 years old. Dad died from cancer in the summer of 1994, 23 years ago. I've written some about dad from time to time, and I often reflect.
Dad was 53 years old that summer; obviously, he was a huge figure in my own life, as he was in those of my family members. His birthday, of course, was not too "big" a deal to the nation, not like the inauguration of the president. As I said three years ago:
He wasn't a "great" man in the commonest sense. There are no books about him, nor buildings named for him. It's unlikely that either will ever be the case. No - he wasn't a great man, but what he was was a good one.Dad played a huge role in my own life - far more than any "important" person, like a president. So, I am thinking a lot less today about Washington than I am about my father.
In the last year of his life, for the last birthday of mine that he was here for, he gave me a necktie, made with the cover art of the Beatles' album "Hard Days Night." Dad was a Beatles' fan - one of life's little tics that I took from him. In truth, he liked the Rolling Stones better, so yes; my father was not perfect.
It was, along with his college ring, the last thing my father gave me as a gift. The tie is kind of kitschy, but I wore it today with pride.
This year will, as I said, mark 23 years since my father lost his battle to cancer. It will also be the last one that I can say, dad was in my life for more than half of it. Starting with next year, I will have spent more than half of my time on this earth without my father.
That fact is hard to wrap my mind around.
I think that life is made, not so much of "huge" events. Frankly, for most of us, there will not be massive parades, nor movies or songs. We will not be the focus of a debate between Anderson Cooper and Van Jones.
But our lives have meaning, and those events we remember are significant.
One of the things I often think about when I remember dad is a short train trip we took when I was 9 years old. I wrote about the trip here, three years ago.
(It was) a trip that my father and I (and a friend and his father) took on a steam train. An old locomotive was being retired, and was making its final run from Spartanburg, SC to King's Mountain, NC, just across the border. At the time, I was quite "in to" railroads - model trains and the like. I remember the excitement quite clearly, despite the three plus decades that have passed. I remember, once we reached the terminus, disembarked, and watched the train continue on to wherever it was headed for scrapping. My friend's mother had arranged to meet us at the other end and drive us back home, so while we waited, my friend and I collected railroad spikes. They were quite grubby, covered with grease, dirt, and soot, I suppose. My father helped me sort which ones were the "best" to keep as souvenirs.
I'm not sure what happened to those spikes, but the day was one of the highlights in my mind's eye. It was the perfect day in many respects.
The railroad ties are long gone, and I haven't been bowling in many, many years. I'm no no longer young, as the cold tide of middle age is slowly rising around me. Dad is a memory now as well. His ring and bits and pieces of the huge place he had in my life remain.
Happy birthday, dad. I still wish you were here.