It’s not just the first day of winter. The solstice – the day with the fewest hours of sunlight in the whole year. It’s not just another day creeping closer to Christmas.
It’s your birthday.
We all wish you were here to celebrate it, to once again complain about how this day was too close to the biggest of holidays, and how you were always “getting gypped” out of presents. Made us laugh every time.
You were a class act, yet down to earth at the same time. You practiced humility, and preached acts of kindness no matter what. Your focus was on God, family, and the country you were proud to be a part of.
You had ups and downs, multitudes of challenges, but you always seemed happy. Your extended family and wealth of old friends were always around, always entertaining. They were a happy bunch as well, with a good word for everyone.
It was always about love with you. And comfort. Especially with your prowess in the kitchen, oh that comfort! The coffee pot bubbling on the stove, chicken soup simmering away… My wife and still reminisce about your kitchen whenever we cook in ours.
The world has changed since you’ve been gone, and it seems to be for the worse. There’s barely any patience anymore, kindness is at a premium, and events that should shake all of us to the core have become sadly commonplace.
Yes, we should live “through the windshield, and not the rear view mirror.” Some will say it’s a sad day when you’re caught living in the past. But how can we not at least take a peek back?
Life was a lot more carefree, without much to concern us. There was Vietnam, and Watergate. Those events seemed to take place far away from us, covered by news programming maybe once a day. They didn’t feel like they were around the corner, waiting to burst out at you.
I like the idea of a time machine. A trip back to a simpler era would be nice, especially if I could take my wife and kids. We could lay on the floor of your living room on a Saturday morning, in our pajamas, elbows on the carpet, hands cupping our faces. Hanna-Barbera cartoons would be on, and we would be able to smell the aroma of frying meatballs coming from the kitchen.
What do we do? Finish that episode of Jonny Quest – or go for the fresh, crispy meatball?
Anyway, I’m getting off track. Most of your generation is gone, and the kind deeds and compassion they expressed may have gone right along with them. Except you did your best to pass them to us. It was a source of your pride. Your great grandchildren, in their earliest stages, are already the citizens you hoped they would be. Being up to me, they will follow in the footsteps of the great generation they came after, the one that you were part of.
Happy Birthday to you. Wish you were here.
We will celebrate this weekend with a glass of wine, a special dessert, and (your old standby) adding fish to a Christmas Eve meal. And by recalling a simpler time of life and looking toward a better future.