Monday, October 22, 2018

Happy Birthday, Dad

My dad’s birthday was this week. He would have been 95 years old. 
I have a picture of him on my desk, and he seems to be watching over me as I work. Sometimes looking at that picture makes me smile, and sometimes it makes me sad. You’d think that after 32 years the memory of losing him would lose its edge, but this one is still sharp as a shard. 
I drove to the cemetery on his birthday and parked in the shade next to the family’s plot. Flipping the tailgate down, I sat for a while in the morning sun and drank coffee from a thermos cup. A freight train blew the horn as it approached the Burnwell Crossing in Dora. The sound echoed by through the hills and hollows. 
On this morning the horn sounded lonesome for some reason. My dad loved that sound. He was a hobo at heart, but I’m not certain he ever rode a train. The cemetery fell silent after the train rumbled by.
As I sat there, I realized that someone had stolen the flowers that Jilda and I had put on the graves during the summer. I wouldn’t be surprised if the graverobbers had a flat tire driving out of the cemetery because my dad hated a thief. 
Each time I go fly fishing I think of my dad. He couldn’t afford high-dollar rods and reels, but he managed to net enough bream and perch to fry up for supper. I still have his old fly rod and reel behind the seat of my truck. Several years ago, I sprung for a new fishing rig with a graphite rod and a fancy reel. They cost more than my first car. The equipment is nice, but I find myself using the old Shakespeare fly rod and reel that my dad gave me before he died in 1986.  
My dad also loved to drive the backroads. Some of the roads were tar and gravel, but others were paved with crushed red rock. The potholes in some of those old backroads were brutal. I heard him tell his friend Glen Sellers a story about getting stopped by a policeman while driving down one of those backroads. The officer said, “Mr. Watson you were weaving. You’re not drinking, are you?” My dad said he told the constable, “Well, hell officer, you have to be drunk to drive these roads.” 
My dad’s mother lived to be 95. I often wonder what it would have been like had my dad lived longer. My dad was one my biggest cheerleaders. When I had a win or reached a milestone in my life, I loved sharing the news with my him. He would listen, nod his head and smile broadly. “I’m proud of you son,” he would say. Those words made my spirit soar.
If your father is still living, I encourage to spend as much time with him as possible. There are very few things in life more important.
Happy birthday, dad.


  1. Such precious memories. And no, the pain doesn't diminish. We find ways to live with it. Mostly.

  2. I dread the day I have to experience this pain. I can imagine the memories and even regrets that will aways linger.

  3. What great memories of your dad. I'm sure that he is still smiling and very proud of you. We really never lose those we love, they are close in our hearts where they stay forever.

  4. A great story. It is said that the person who has the most influence in a child's life is a parent of the same sex. For you, that would be your dad. You were very lucky. Happy Belated Birthday to your dad.
    Hugs, Julia

  5. One of the best lines to a police officer ever!

  6. Anonymous1:16 PM

    My dad died in 1980 & I still miss him every day!!

  7. I, too, love the sounds of nearby trains. My father's been gone since 1981; far too soon for his daughter to consider asking the hard questions.

  8. Such a beautiful tribute. Your words bring him to life for those of us who never met him. He sounded like a great Dad and a good man. My Dad passed in 1976 and I miss him every day. Happy Birthday to your Dad in heaven. Big hugs from me!

  9. I echo the advice, Dads are special. I loved the picture of you on the tail gate with coffee and the train whistle! Yeah, good entry my friend, good entry!

  10. So right. I deeply appreciate this warm article. My dad was born in 1921 and passed in 1987. As you say, there will be a smile when memories come, and there will even still be a tear for some memories. I miss him.

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