I can’t recall missing one of my Dad’s birthdays since my adulthood. Growing up, we celebrated his special day the way we did everyone in the family. The birthday person got to choose their favorite restaurant, and we had homemade cake at home. Once I was out of the house, the milestones were celebrated via U.S. Postal Service–a small gift and a carefully selected card.
This year, I sent a card. I doubt he will understand who it is from. He probably will not realize today is his birthday. But I sent it just in case. What if the frontal temporal lobe dementia that’s got him in its grip gives him a good day? Some days are, after all, better than others.
My Dad didn’t age until dementia took over, in 2008. He always looked younger than he really was. In this picture, he is 64. He is standing infront of the little clinic in Jacksboro, Texas where he was born. At the time, his family lived in nearby Archer City, (home, too, to author Larry McMurtry.)It was important to my Dad that we travel back to Archer City on Fourth of July weekend every five years for a family reunion that pulls together kin from all over the United States.
When we were there in 2005, we stayed at the Spur Hotel, at the intersection bearing the city’s single stoplight, checked out the still-in-renovation Royal Theater, and looked through all of McMurtry’s book stores. (Even running into McMurtry, himself, in one of them.) We ate at the Dairy Queen, even though the city boasted a brand new Sonic. Dad showed us the rodeo yards, and the house where he grew up. We visited the cemetery where our ancestors are buried. And we toured the Archer County Museum and Jail, a sandstone building from 1910. A docent warned us to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes as we showed ourselves around the property and climbed to the third floor to see the hanging gallows.
Dad enjoyed showing his grandchildren his roots. And I’m glad he got to revisit them, himself, for one last time.