July 24

Today is my dad’s birthday. He would have been 65.

If he were here, and if he were not battling cancer, he would be making several stupid jokes about how he’s officially a senior citizen. We would be down the shore for some festival and beach activity, and probably force him to go to my great aunt’s house so she could cook him my favorite meal as his birthday lunch. He would in turn force me to go to Atlantic City with him and my mom, watch them play video poker, and eat a comped meal at one of the buffets. We would sit at one of the beach bars because he would still be excited that I’m finally over 21 and can drink beer with him, and there we would make fun of all the drunken louts trying to dance. He would point out the charm and elegance of the Atlantic City patrons, asking if baggy pants and backwards caps would look good on him.

I would give him a birthday card that makes fun of him in a loving way, and I would also give him yet another book/dvd/cd that my mom told me he wanted but wasn’t sure if he already had. My mom would also give him a book/dvd/cd along with some kind of gadget or practical item that she thinks he needs. My great aunt would give him a card with a $20 or $50 bill, and my sister’s present to him would be on its way from Amazon in the next few days.

Last year I was living in Baltimore for the summer, so my parents came down to me for the weekend of my dad’s birthday. His choice of activities was going to the Industry Museum, which to me was frightfully dull, and attending the German festival in some hick part of Maryland, less dull but very odd. (I am currently wearing the amber ring he purchased for me at that festival.) My mom told me soon after that weekend that my dad was upset because I last-minute decided to come home the weekend before for a friend’s birthday and because my sister and Zoe were in town, but I didn’t want to come home for his birthday. If he had just been mad he would have said something to me and I would have gotten mad right back; but he didn’t, which means he was actually hurt.

This year for my dad’s birthday, my sister and Zoe are coming to try and ease the pain of what is sure to be an excrutiating day. We will still go down the shore, but he will not make any corny  jokes. We will go to the beach and take Zoe on the boardwalk rides, something my dad has been wanting to do since Erica announced she was pregnant, but he will not buy her the ride tickets. I will play with Zoe in the ocean, lifting her up as each wave comes along just like my dad used to do with me, but he will not yell at me that I’m doing it wrong. We will go to the cemetery, we will for the first time see his name engraved in bold black against the smooth white marble, and July 24 will never be the same.

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