An Open Letter to My Dad on His 70th Birthday
It’s pretty hard to think about giving you another birthday baby you won’t get to enjoy. I wish these ankle biters could know you the way I knew you. I wish they could ride on the back of your four wheelers in Idaho holding on tight. I wish you could teach them how to sail, how to properly wash my car, how to tie a knot, and to always wear their personal floatation devices. I wish so many things I won’t ever have for them.
But I will teach them as best as I can, not about most of the things I mentioned—except for maybe the four-wheeling—because I wasn’t a good student for any of them, but about ice cream and spaghetti, and yurts, and being outside, and always making time to play.
I know that you’ve led me to my current life and all of its riches. A new house by the beach, still with the big couch. A job I created that doesn’t force me to set a morning alarm (although, I’m soon to have a newborn alarm who’s gonna be about as mixed up about what time it is as the rooster across the street from us in Olympia was). I know that you’re guiding a lot from up there, with often too much smirky humor at my expense and a whole lot of grace. I am different—better in many ways—because you are not physically here with me. I am more thoughtful, slower to react, and sometimes more patient. I’m working to be better all the time.
In the past year, your grandson has EXPLODED verbally. I’ve been telling him about you and he’s starting to say “grandpa” in a way that shows he knows you, at least through my stories. When his eyes sparkle and he gives me a little closed mouth smile I see you in him and it makes my heart swell and hurt all at once. We’ve taken him on so many adventures you would love: to the San Juan Islands, to Mazama, to Leavenworth, to Utah, to Montana and Idaho and to the Cabela’s in Spokane. You always loved a good Cabela’s.
Today, you would be 70. Whoa. At this point, I don’t even know what you’d look like at 70. Maybe a little more wrinkly, with more salt in your salt and pepper hair, but still like you. Still handsome. Still the person I loved to look at. This is a milestone birthday for all of us—another decade complete. I think it warrants some extra ice cream, don’t you?
Happy birthday, Kouk! I am so proud to be a part of you. Thank you for creating me, for truly LIVING while you were here and teaching me what it means to build a life that is purposeful and fulfilling and full of joy and love for others. I hope I can continue to do you justice. That’s my gift to you. Plus a few babies. And lots of ice cream.
I love you!