It's so strange to think that today would have been your 70th birthday. Oh, the party we would have had! I bet you'd be even more hilarious by now, some on account of you being crazy little you and some on account of age doing its thing that makes some folks a little battier. I wish I could have met 70 year old you. But that kind of sadness and sorrow talk is for tomorrow, the 14th anniversary of your death, one day after your 56th birthday when you were still, as the realization encroaches upon me more each year, just so goddamn young. Tomorrow I'll deal with sad. Today I'll deal with a celebration of you, possibly with a birthday cake and definitely with that one meal that I make every year and that always involves my own little rituals.
And I'll tell you a story you'd appreciate.
I was back home in Chicago in February for the JET interview (yes, I might be doing Japan again) and got to spend time with everyone, and on the last day there before I went to Indy to see my dear friend J (who I met the first time I did JET and who you would have L-O-V-E-D if you'd met him because he's almost as crazy as you), Dad and I went out for breakfast. We actually went to a restaurant, not just to a store with samples like where he used to sometimes try to take you for breakfast when he was being the lovable ass Dad likes to be (you'd love COSTCO for a meal's worth of samples, though, seriously).
Breakfast done, Dad gave me the keys to his car and was going to just run to the bathroom, which was around the outside of the building since the place used to be an old gas station, for what I assumed should be a quick trip. I got in the car and sat in the passenger seat awhile, but it was taking him forever, and it was really cold. Chicago, February, you remember the drill. I put the key in the ignition hoping to start the car and get some damn heat going in that cold bitch (you'd've said something about a witch's tit), but you have to push something or do some fancy action while turning the key to actually make it turn, and I wasn't sure just what, so I sat and waited some more, getting colder. At first I was just cold, but after 5 minutes I was a little annoyed that Dad hadn't just let me stay in the warm restaurant with my coffee if it was going to be one of those sit down bathroom trips instead of the stand up kind. By 10 minutes I was a little worried. I mean, Dad's not exactly a spring chicken, and he was in there a really long time. I started to wonder if he fell in or if something bad had happened.
I considered some options. See, Dad has a cell phone (OM
So I just keep sitting there, worried, wondering at what point I need to do something like knock on the bathroom door (with great potential to be no less weird than a phone call would have been) when I saw Dad standing in the parking lot looking completely lost and dazed and confused. I was instantly worried that something was wrong. He might be getting old-ish, but he never looks confused like that.
I open the car door and step out, still kind of inside the door, and wave to him and we have this conversation across the parking lot:
Me: "Hey, Dad, what are you doing?"
Dad: "Looking for you. What are you doing? My car is over here."
Me: *speechless, face turning 18 shades of red*
Um, yah. The car I'd been sitting in for 20+ minutes? It looked like Dad's car, but it was decidedly Not. Dad's. Car. Maybe the owner had left it unlocked, and my pushing the button to unlock it remotely hadn't actually unlocked it (or they didn't and it still had somehow). Of course the key fit in the ignition when I wanted to turn the car on for heat because it was still the same make of car, but that's why the key wouldn't turn. There wasn't a lot of stuff in the car, but Dad still doesn't keep much in his car, either, and it's not like I'd taken inventory for cross-reference.
So as I start to sheepishly make my way out of the car that I now remembered was in a completely different part of the parking lot than where we had parked upon our arrival 90 or so minutes prior, a handful of women are walking in the direction of the car. If it's possible to turn even redder at that point, I did, and I started apologizing up one side and down the other, trying to explain basically that I'm enough of a dumb ass to sit in the wrong car to wait for someone, and they just looked bewilderedly at me and my flusteredness. Yah, the car that I was in that was Not. Dad's. Car.? Um, Not. Their. Car. Either. Too. Oh. Gee. Zuss.
Of course, while I'd been worried about Dad, he'd been even more worried about my unexplainable and sudden disappearance after his 1 minute trip to the bathroom and had gone back in the restaurant, was asking if anyone had seen me, was doing the math on the bathroom keys and generally was just getting concerned, so I felt really terrible that I'd made him worry so much. Once the worry part had been over awhile, I think he found the humor in it, and I hear that the way he told it to my sister, your other daughter, he ended his story by saying "there's a little bit of your mother in that girl."
Indeed there is.
No matter how long you are gone, I'll always be your daughter. Happy Birthday, Mama. I love you. I miss you. You live on through me, and sometimes it's so obvious that it almost ain't even funny, except that it is. Thanks?