Four-Score and 0 Years Ago (Birthday Wishes for Dad)

Dad Korea
Korea. Ca. 1954
Celebrating my Father on His Eightieth Birthday
“Your mom did a good job raising you and your brother and sister,” my dad said to me one day as we sat, just the two of us, talking.
My eyes widened. “Dad,” I said, “You did a good job, too!”
“It was your mom. I was always working,” he sighed.
He’s right. He was always working. In addition to his career as a telephone engineer, he worked at raising decent children.
I was his toughest assignment.  It began when I was a toddler. Visiting friends, I discovered an old razor blade, rusted beyond purpose, and being a toddler, I put it in my mouth and bit.

My father reassembled all the fragments of crumbling metal, toiling with tweezers, to ensure that I hadn’t swallowed a single sliver.

The Christmas Eve I was nearly five, bedtime brought bitter tears. I had asked Santa for only one thing, and then convinced myself that unless Santa brought a Baby Pat-A-Burp in the night, he would bring me nothing for Christmas.
Late, late that night, after I’d sobbed myself to sleep, my dad drove to my grandparents’ home, an hour away, to exchange the doll they’d bought for me with a gift from Mom and Dad’s Santa stash. It wasn’t enough that he knew I would receive the coveted toy at their house, later, on Christmas; he exhausted himself to make a swap so that Santa would deliver my Baby Pat-A-Burp.
He knew it mattered to my four-year-old heart, so he made it happen.
My father taught me, when I was five, how to play chess and form letters. To this day, my right-handed grip on a pen bears his southpaw’s unique grasp.
The night my brother was born, he walked my sister and me across the hospital’s dewy lawn, soaking all our sneakers, hoisting us to peek through a window into the nursery for a glimpse of our new baby brother. The next day, when my sister and I quarreled over who would wear the “It’s a BOY!” button to school, Dad solved the dispute with a flip of a coin.
In the weeks after a friendly game of softball turned ugly, shredding the ligaments of my dad’s knee, he wheeled himself into the yard, huge cast supporting his healing leg, to play catch with my sister and me.
Dad worked hard at his career, too. Mom was home, mothering us: Dad provided the resources for music lessons, braces, new clothes every September, family trips. He served in the U.S. Marine Reserves, having completed his active duty before my birth. He went to college at night. He volunteered at church, coached softball teams, boarded the band bus at 4 a.m. with the other parents.
When I was an intractable teen, rebellious and angst-ridden and angry at the very air I breathed, he loved me enough to weather my endless whining when my drunken escapade had led him to ground me. I could wheedle Mom, whittling her resolve until she relented. Dad stood firm, valuing my character over his comfort.
If I had a new beau, the young man always had to come inside and shake my father’s hand before we left on a date. Always, Dad asked me, in my suitor’s presence, “Do you have change for a phone call?” He sat, every date night, in his rocker, smoking his pipe and reading until I was safely delivered home.
The day I wrecked the family car, I expected his wrath. My fingers shook as I phoned him with the news. “Are you hurt?” he asked.“No, Daddy.”“Is anyone else hurt?”


“Okay, then. Call Mike at State Farm.”

When my mother died, my father grieved with a grateful heart, thanking every nurse, every visitor, the housekeeper who mopped the floor in the hospital. He shook the funeral director’s hand as we planned my mother’s memorial.
And always, through every hairpin turn in my life, every opportunity to begin something new, he asked, quietly: And what about your writing?He never let me give up on words.As an adult I learned that some people struggle to see God as a loving Father, as they have no human reflection of that image. My dad showed me mercy and justice, forgiveness and discipline, and love.Always and unconditionally, he offered love. He still does. 

Today is my father’s eightieth birthday. Last weekend we gathered at his new house, with his beautiful bride of two years.
Watching him, I realized:Mom was the heartbeat of our family.

But Dad was, is, will always be, our backbone. 

A gray head is a crown of glory;
It is found in the way of righteousness.

Proverbs 16:31 (NASB)


  1. A beautiful tribute to what sounds like an amazing man.Very honorable and admirable.

  2. This is a sweet post, Sheila. Happy Birthday to your Dad. 🙂

  3. Oh, well done, Sheila. Love every piece of the story you shared here. Aren’t we blessed to have had loving, faithful fathers? Oh, my – top of the list of things to be grateful for. Thanks for this. And Happy Birthday to your good dad!

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