Today is the 21st of January. For most of the world, one of 365 days (or in this Leap Year, 366) in the calendar. Another page on and another off.
However, for my family, today is my father's birthday.
Dad's been gone for 26 years as of this coming July. More than half of my life. My own birthday is up on just over three weeks. This is a big one for me, but mainly because people think in base 10 (I suppose because, per Tom Lehrer, for those of us not missing two fingers...)
Many years ago, I thought my father was a big man. That he was the strongest person in the world. I thought he knew just about everything. We used to watch "Jeopardy!" on television every night after dinner, and I was amazed at how many of the questions he could get right.
As I got bigger, I found out, one by one, that of course, none of these things was true. Dad was six feet tall and 155 pounds on a good day - hardly the biggest man in the world. More than once, as I got older, I could lift and do things that he couldn't. And there were times when, Jimmy Stewart to the side, I went to dad for an answer and even between the two of us, we could not find it.
I have my own son who once looked at me in the same way. I was the big person who knew the answers to everything. Now, my own son is an inch taller than I am (he's 14, so he caught and passed me; I never reached my father's height). Years ago, he started asking questions I could not answer.
But while my father was not the biggest man in the world, and he did not have all the answers, he always remained the most important man in my life.
When I was young, I thought dad was an old man, which I suppose all kids do. He lost his battle to cancer in 1994. He was three years older then than I am right now.
Dad never got to be an old man.
With the passing of time, I've found, as everyone does, that with each year - with each day - I have fewer and fewer plans and more and more memories.
I think about dad often. Today, he would have been 79.
Happy birthday dad. I miss you a lot.