Sunday, June 9, 2013

Happy Birthday Dad

    1928 was the last time there was a June 9th on earth without my Dad in it. That was a few months before the stock market crash that started the great depression. I've never known a June 9th without my Dad in it until today. Perhaps waxing philosophical is not how most people would deal with this but I just cannot deal with cold hard facts merely at face value. Something in the makeup of who I am compels me to try and penetrate them, analyze them and understand their deeper meaning. I really do not know who implanted this compulsion in me because it never was my Dad's makeup or, for that matter, my Mom's. I guess it is just something God, Himself, encoded in my DNA.

     The first June 9th of my life was in 1965. Obviously, I don't remember it but I am betting my Mom does. My Dad turned 36 years old that day and my mind hurts trying to imagine what the world looked like to him that day. I, myself, turned 36 in 2000 and my life was spinning out of control. I do not have the capacity to understand what my Mom and Dad were going through then. My Dad was 36 and my Mom would turn 33 later that year, 2 days before I would turn 1. Around the time of those two birthdays, my mother would become pregnant with my younger brother, their 5th and final child.

     June 9th, 1965. The twins were 13, my brother George was 21 months old and I would turn 9 months old the next day. Our country was at war and my Dad was a military man. It had been less than 19 months since the assassination of President John F Kennedy. That is why I was named John Fitzgerald. It was also just over 2 months since their 14th anniversary.

     A life is a unique set of challenges and fears, accomplishments and sorrows. I, for one, simply cannot know what this thirty-something family of 4 (and one on the way) was going through at this time but I think I can venture a good guess.

     To try to comprehend, I try to put myself in their timeline. Interestingly enough, our oldest also turned 13 in the same year that I turned 36. Further, on June 9th of that year, we had also been married- you guessed it- 14 years. We, like my parents, had also had 4 children but one of them was already in heaven.
At that time our country was not at war...not yet. The date that shook our generation was still 15 months away. The date that brought my family completely to it's knees was about 4 1/2 years further still.

     Yet, I think it is fair to say that there are enough parallels that I can draw a picture and get some sense of where this family was.

     I am guessing there was some fear. I am also pretty sure there was a great deal of disillusion. They had surely come to realize that life was far more difficult than they had imagined it would be.

     It would take me far too long to come to know and understand this.

     What is the point of all this? The point is that it is a lamentable fact of life that we cannot know the full measure of a man until we know the full measure of his life. His hopes, his dreams, his triumphs and tragedies and the basic struggle he meets with day after day.

     My dad lived 83 years, 8 months and 16 days. That is just shy of 30,500 days. It is a final number. Today would have been birthday number 84 for this man but he did not live to see it.
      What is the memory of a man beyond cold letters etched in stone? Does he live on only in our memory or do we assimilate the best of him into our very selves? Is my dad gone like a dead flower, fading into the back of our memory or is he just as alive in another place, in another way?

     What gives power to our hope as Christians is the certain knowledge that God is the God of the living and not of the dead (Mark 12:24-27).

     Life is not a movie that starts at one hour and ends at another. Eternity past draws out before us like and endless flowing river that we suddenly splash down into. The helplessness of infancy dissolves into the painful growth of youth into adulthood. We lose our innocence, are stripped of our illusions and march on through life, hopefully coming to realize that houses and cars and trinkets are not our destination, neither are sloth and dependency and self-pity. Honor and integrity and love are our destinations, our earthly lives are no more than the mere canvas they are painted on. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) until we hear those joyous words; Well done, good and faithful servant or those stern and painful words; Away from me.....

     June 9th falling on a weekend in the past could only have meant one thing. We would be having a wing ding. This is what we called our family barbeque/combat volleyball get togethers at the folks house. I remember like it was yesterday.

     I miss my dad but I know he is with me. He has already interceded for me before God. He is alive. In fact, I believe my dad is more of a force in my life and a help, than ever before. His prayers are closer to God, his intercession that much stronger, his love for his family that much purer.

     Happy birthday Dad. I know there is quite a wing ding going on up there.

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