Happy Birthday, Dad!


Eighty-four years ago a man was born in Flushing, New York. He married young, at age 22, fresh out of the Air Force, with a promising career as a civil engineer. But with the first child born, and then twins right after, that dream was dashed.

This man was my father, who died six years ago today. Six long years. And yet every morning I still say hi to him, wish him well, hoping that he’s doing okay in whatever dimension he resides, smoking a cigar right down to its wet spinach stub and cradling a glass of chardonnay.

My Dad’s passing was the first time in my life I experienced a close death. I guess I was lucky over the years, through my thirties and forties, never witnessing a death, never having been to a wake or funeral.

That all changed six years ago, when my dear Dad died from—what was assumed—a massive heart attack. Who knows? There was no autopsy. Christ, there wasn’t even a wake or funeral. It was as though this man who lived and breathed on this beautiful blue planet suddenly vanished, with no fanfare at all.

He was whisked away, only to be subsequently burnt to ashes in a matter of days, still wearing the golf shirt, overly long shorts, and tennis shoes he wore when he died. I never did give him a proper good-bye. I tried, but when I called the funeral home, the woman informed me that “I’m sorry, Honey. He’s on his way to the crematorium.”

I remember that day, six years ago on August 10th, when my brother from Florida called me and told me that Dad had died.

I was floored. I didn’t believe it. I was pissed, angry, confused, bewildered. I ran into the backyard, bent to the ground on both knees, and wept, big, wet wracking sobs.

To this day I still cannot fathom that he is…gone.

Dad, even though some family members have said in the past for me to get over it, I still greet you every single morning with a hearty hello and plant a kiss on the portrait I did of you. The picture above was taken a day before he died, on Friday the 13th, 2010.

Or who really knows? It could have been August 14th, the morning my Mum returned from vacationing in Maine, where my Dad was just there the day before. She found him lying face up, his legs resting on a chair in the living room, as though he was doing sit-ups, lying there staring at the ceiling, his last gaze probably looking at the years-old resin stain from countless Christmas trees dragged and hoisted into the room. Maybe he thought, with his last dying breath, he wondered how he could get rid of that stain, having not seen it from this angle lying on the floor.

And then he released his last breath.

How do I feel on this momentous day, the sixth anniversary of my father’s death? I am still angry. I still miss him. Terribly.

I love you, Dad, and wish you much comfort. Know that at least this offspring, one of seven, still think of you—every single day.

Happy 84th Birthday, Pops!

With much love,

Paul Harry


© Paul Grignon – 2016

All Rights Reserved


3 responses to “Happy Birthday, Dad!

  1. I feel the same about my Dad’s death in 1998. He was “only” eighty-one. In some ways a sudden death, whether stroke (my Dad) or heart attack (your Dad), may be the “best” way to go. My Mom died in 1968 and her killer was a six-month bout of cancer which I wouldn’t wish upon anybody. The good-bye was no less painful but more anguished. I think that we all need the ceremony of wake, funeral, or some other form of ritual to help us through the grieving process. Mom had nothing, like your Dad, and so we attempted a small send off for Dad. It helped! I like the fact that you celebrate your Dad’s life with birthday wishes and remembering his life.

  2. Dear Paul,
    A beautiful celebration of a well-loved man. For an author, I get tongue tied in such matters. Therefore, I’ll not say much.
    I love how remember your Dad. Unfortunately for me, my father passed on when I was three years old and I never got to know him.
    I’m happy for you, your memories.
    Your friend from Singapore,
    P/s Pardon this late comment as I’d dropped off the blogging grid some.

    • Dear Eric,

      Thank you for the kind words about my memories of ‘Pops’. Yes, he was a complicated and quiet man, but he was a wonderful human being, despite his selfish propensity to keep mum on his life. Only on very rare occasions did he speak of his youth, tales I cherished but far too many untold.

      I’m sorry you never got to know your own father. That must leave a swirl of thoughts and emotions in your head, the ‘what if?…’ kind of questions.

      I am grateful for you stopping by and taking the time to post a few words my way. I appreciate them very much.

      Take care, my friend, from 9,000 miles away.

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