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Happy Birthday, Daddy!

February 10, 2009

Alternately titled, “Why I’ll Never Go Home.”

Today is my dad’s birthday.
I called him this morning and sang Happy Birthday into his voice mail. It’s just what I do.
I grew up in a tiny town, even though for the area, it was one of the bigger “cities.” It’s a town I consider my hometown, a town that my dad also grew up in. We were very settled. We lived in the same house for seventeen years. My little brother had most of the same teachers I did. I had some of the same teachers my dad did. Both of my parents had steady jobs. My dad had the same boss for twenty-five years.

It was a good place to raise a family. There wasn’t any excitement. We made our own.

It was the kind of town where renting a few movies and ordering pizza on Friday night was considered a plan.

It was the kind of town that shut down at 9 pm, unless there was a football game in which case the one coffee shop on Central Avenue would open up for a few hours to help us celebrate, and the junior jazz combo (called the ITTB, in honor of a dear classmate who moved with his family to, of all places, California. I mean, to us, that was like leaving the country)(and wouldn’t you know? He’s in Nashville now.) would set up in a corner and play all night.

We ordered hot chocolate and quizzed each other with the Trivial Pursuit cards stacked on all the tables.

I actually knew the people I sat next to at church.

I couldn’t be in the grocery store for more than five minutes without running into someone to talk to.

My best friend was always a bike ride away.

This is the kind of town I grew up in. It’s the kind of town my dad lived his entire life in.

Until four years ago.

Shortly after his birthday (right after mine) four years ago, my dad packed up and said goodbye to that tiny town, his mom and dad, his sister, his friends, his colleagues, his history. He said goodbye, left my mom and my brother to finish the school year, and moved to Minnesota.

I don’t believe he’s looked back since.

He came back for the Memorial Day weekend that year, and we all drove, in our own vehicles, to Minnesota.

I cried. I cried all the way to the next town.
But my dad?
By the time he left in March, he was already gone.
By May, it was just logistics. That was all.

Since then, he’s gone from foot patrol to second in command. He’s been to conferences in California, he’s been involved with the Republican National Convention, and he’s been less than ten feet from the President of the United States. He’s started working on his master’s degree, and currently he’s in Virginia pursuing academia and personal betterment.

In four years, moving to Minneapolis has done all of that for him, not to mention the difference it has made in the lives of the rest of us, his family.

He’s the smartest person I know. He retains knowledge like a camel retains water. He’s a living and breathing encyclopedia. He’s well spoken, he’s motivated, he’s strong. He’s courageous.

It sounds cheesy, but he’s my hero.
He’s also, obviously, a big dork.

So, happy birthday, Daddy. Thank you for allowing us to grow up where we did, and thank you for moving us out when you did. Thank you for demonstrating the importance of doing what’s best for your family, and thank you also for demonstrating the importance of doing what’s best for you. Thank you for being courageous, for setting a stellar example for both my brother and me. Thank you for being encouraging, for believing in all of us.

Thank you.
I love you more than anything in the world,
Your Baby Girl

(we are so badass.)
5 Comments leave one →
  1. Single permalink
    February 10, 2009 8:16 pm

    What a nice birthday post. I got choked up reading it.

  2. Eric Shonkwiler permalink
    February 11, 2009 3:48 am

    I grew up in just such a town. I’ve been enjoying your blog–love that you’re reading Dylan.

    And way to live the dream. The best stories start this way: from the bottom up. I’m trying to live my own dream at the moment. Good luck to you.

  3. bigskygirl permalink
    February 11, 2009 5:06 am

    Happy bday, AJ.

    RaeLeigh John :)

  4. mindy permalink
    February 11, 2009 2:31 pm

    You totally described my hometown. Minus the coffee shop, and grocery store. :-)

  5. February 11, 2009 5:15 pm

    Aww, so sweet! Happy belated birthday to your dad!

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