Once upon a time there was a man
And he raised two kids: a girl and a boy
And the girl was the apple of his eye from the minute she was born; if anyone ever hurt his daughter, he would chew their throat out with his teeth and then go have some pancakes
And the boy was his pride and joy; and he had great dreams for his son, though sometimes he kinda wanted to shake the kid until his teeth rattled, because it is the nature of fathers and sons that they don’t always see eye to eye and frequently butt heads as a result
And he had a wife who knew how to smack him down when he got too far out of line, but who had also perfected the “bear with me; it’s like trying to teach manners to a wild horse” face for those times when he was just being his ornery self
And he never really had a job that was super-fancy, though he did work hard, and eventually found a position that was completely non-glamorous but which was critical and helpful and let him make sure other people were taken care of–a job he could take pride in
And sure, he was a little rough around the edges, but he had a heart as big as the sun and was always up for a good laugh and was oh-so-gentle with babies
And he lost his Dad too soon but made up for it by being a helluva good Dad himself, and by taking good care of his Mom
And was the sort of person who would shovel your driveway for you, or drive 30 minutes to jump-start your car
And wasn’t much on church but would show up for a baptism or a Mother’s Day service
And cared about car races and loved camping and fishing
And wanted nothing more than to make sure that his family was taken care of
Even if they didn’t always see eye-to-eye
And even if people never really expected him to turn into such a family man
And he wanted to give them everything they ever wanted
And show them the world
Even if he had to start small, by showing them the simple things first and teaching them about love and hard work and how to find adventure and excitement in the smaller things
And he and his sister seemed to come from different planets, but she knew that he was always there for her if she really needed it, and that sometimes she could look at him and be incredibly proud of the man he’d turned into when nobody was lookin’
And yesterday was his 31st birthday
And his sister is so, so proud.
So Budder, this one’s for you. Losing Dad was the hardest day we’ve ever faced, but it’s comforting to be able to see that he’s still around–just in a younger, skinnier form. He used to call me sometimes to brag about you–I don’t know if you ever knew that–because he was thrilled with the man you were becoming. And sure, sometimes he wanted to smack you upside the head because you did stupid stuff, but I’m sure Grandma felt the same way about him, and I’m sure you’ll feel the same way about your own Little Buddy as time progresses.
But at the core of it all, you’re a good man, and a great Dad, and I have absolutely no doubts that our own Dad is delighted by the person you’ve grown into being.
Happy birthday, ya punk. I love you.
Now pull up your pants.