Today would have been my dad’s 89th birthday and in anticipation of this date, I’ve been thinking a lot about him. I’ve written before how after our mom died, my siblings and I just didn’t get enough time with Dad before he succumbed to cancer. And recently, I received from my sister, one of my dad’s journals that brought him even more to mind.
This is one of the birthday gifts that I gave my dad every year for his birthday, a daily journal with spiritual devotions and inspirational photos. In fact this is one of the journals I wrote about on my dad’s birthday last year. While I gave these to him each year for a number of years and I knew he wrote in them each day, I had never before read one until now.
Quickly flipping through the pages, I couldn’t find a single day that he had not made an entry. This must have become such a regular part of his daily routine that he even carried these journals with him whenever he traveled so he could chronicle his activities each day. We used to often joke how poorly our mom’s handwriting was and how hard it was to read but I must say I think Dad must have taken a few lessons from Mom as on some of his calendar pages, it was quite difficult to figure out some of the words he had written.
Each daily entry would start with a brief synopsis of the weather such as: “Partly cloudy and warmer.” Dad would then go on to capture what all he did during the day, where he ate his meals and often what he ate. He would include what TV shows he watched in the evening before bed and even something as mundane as a discussion with one of my sisters about purchasing new car tires.
With 365 day’s worth of writings, it was hard to know which dates to focus on first. I started by flipping through the pages to my sibling’s and my birthdays and noted Dad had duly documented each one even including our age on that date. For my sister’s birthday in August, he was in Montreat with her and documented not only driving to Black Mountain to get her a birthday cake, but also walking to the Montreat general store and purchasing the Smoky Mountains calendars he and Mom always gave all four of us for Christmas each year.
Sunday pages in the journal were a full-page and Dad wrote even more on those days.
On the last Sunday in July (preceding my sister’s birthday celebrated in Montreat), Dad wrote about how after church, everyone had walked to Assembly Inn for lunch and Dad had treated, documenting even the cost ($10.50 each for the buffet).
As I read a few more days from this trip I found my own name written the night I treated everyone to pizza. Going back to my old photo albums, I realized my family had also been on that trip, our first time to go to Montreat without Mom (she had died the prior year).
When I came to my mom’s birthday, I saw that he had noted it along with her age had she still been living. On that date, I also saw that Dad had written that he had gotten 50 gold dollar coins to give to my oldest sister for her 50th birthday that October. When I turned to the page for her birthday, I didn’t find any notations of a celebration. I flipped over a few more pages and then found that we had celebrated her birthday the following weekend and I had been there too.
When I turned to the calendar page for Dad’s birthday, I was pleased to read that Dad had noted everyone who had called to wish him a happy birthday. However one call Dad captured on that date did not bode well as it was from his doctor stating that all but one of the spots he had removed from my dad the week before were malignant. I got chills when I thought what terrible news to get on your birthday and what prescient news it was though none of us knew it at the time.
When I glanced back at the year of this calendar journal, I realized that this is the one I had given him for his birthday just six months after our mom died. When I turned to that page in April, my eyes filled with tears as I read that my dad had marked the one year anniversary of her death by driving from Hot Springs, AR to Sibley, LA to place a pot of tulips on my mom’s grave. I never knew that. I was deeply moved but joyed that he had chosen to mark the occasion that way.
But tears came even harder when I suddenly realized reading Dad’s entry for the one-year anniversary of Mom’s death that the page in his 2002 journal would be blank on the day he died. While it breaks my heart to think of that page and all the rest of the pages for that journal remaining blank, it is comforting to know that I have captured the events of that day, not in his journal but in my own way, in a Glimpse of My Dad blog post.