Today would have been Dad's 74th birthday. If he were still alive, he would have been opening the usual presents: sheet music for the piano, gear for his sailboat, plants for the yard. He loved the mixed nuts my brother always sent, along with the steady stream of Florida T-shirts from me and my sister. But what I remember best are all the joke gifts we gave him: the wigs, weird hats and other tasteless items he had so much fun with. My mother told me this morning she still keeps his fake "dog poop" in a drawer.
Dad models a surfer dude hat and wig on his 69th birthday
Dad also loved animals. Several times a year, someone dumps an unwanted dog in my parents' neighborhood on the Pamlico River. My father doted on these dogs, taking them for medical care and visiting them in the animal shelter, even housing them temporarily. Two years ago, he fell in love with a young, energetic black lab-ish "stray" who followed my mother home. By the end of the day, "River" was ensconced in the garage. After weeks of working to find a new home for the dog, Dad took him to an animal adoption fair. When I called to see how it went, he was thrilled that a woman with a large, fenced-in yard had taken River home. "I saw her the other day," Mom said this morning. "She just loves that dog."
So this year, instead of sheet music, mixed nuts or a wig, we'll buy Dad a brick for the new animal shelter at the Humane Society of Beaufort County, North Carolina. Happy Birthday, Dad.