From The Archives: SIX!

I guess if I’m going to finish my summer blogs and write about Emerson’s seventh birthday, I should probably share something from her sixth.  To be honest, it’s a bit deceiving to label this blog “from the archives” when the only thing in the archival blog were photos. No words. 

There were the before photos, when everything was normal:

And the after photos, when everything was…well…not.  But we’ll get to those in a minute.  First I want to think about all the things I remember about Emerson’s party. 

It was hot.  SO HOT.  In the high 90’s with humidity near 100%.  We had central air on in the house, but it couldn’t keep up with all the people inside.

Almost everyone Emerson invited came, the house and yard were full of girls (and a few boys).

All the kids tie-dyed t-shirts (with sharpies and alcohol, not the traditional way) and ran in the sprinkler and beat up a pinata.

The food was good, the beer was cold and despite the number of kids present, everyone got a piece of the rainbow or the flower, or whatever frosting design they wanted.

The kids had fun, the parents had fun, and most important, Emerson had fun.

It was a wonderful day.  It was also the last day I would spend with my father on this earth.

It’s not unusual, I know, to immediately feel regret when someone close to you dies–I should have, I could have…–and my experience is no different.  I had been thinking about calling him, and his girlfriend, for a couple of days after Emerson’s party to thank them for the tremendous amount of help and effort they put in to  make it such a wonderful day for her.  Despite the heat, my father was–true to form–running all over the place, setting up, cleaning up, finding kids bathing suits, taking photos, taking a whack at the pinata… But in all of this activity, I have not a single photo of him.  In all the chaos of the party, he was always in the background somewhere.  Before he left, he spent about a half and hour trying to get Emerson’s undivided attention for just a minute so that he could give her his birthday card, but she was so enraptured with her friends and the running and the screaming and the sugar that it never happened.  He left the card for her to open later, thinking he would see her again in one short week. (We had planned a family vacation with all the grandchildren for the coming week–a vacation my father never saw).

Yes, I should have called him.  I should have spent more time with him at the party.  I should have made Emerson stop for a minute to open the card from her beloved Poppi.  Come to think of it, I should have called more, spent more time with, and stopped for a minute my entire life, when I was so enraptured with my friends, and the running, and the screaming, and the sugar, and my father was offstage, in the background, quietly making sure everything was taken care of.

And that’s the thing about my dad: he wouldn’t want me regretting.  Wherever he is, I know he doesn’t care that I didn’t call him to say thank you, and he understands that I was too busy to spend time with him at my daughter’s birthday party.  I know that he wanted to see Emerson’s expression when she opened his birthday card, but I know that what he wanted even more was for Emerson to have a good time with her friends.  My father was the most unconditionally giving, caring, and understanding person in my life, and the only thing I regret is that he has to miss the pure joy it gave him to spend time with his grandchildren, and that they will never truly know what a wonderful person was taken from them.

Emerson did open the card after he left.  It had a picture of a piece of cheese on the front with googly eyes, and when she opened it (which she did, about a hundred times) it sang a song: “if you’re happy it’s your birthday just say cheese!”  It was a typical card from my dad, and Emerson loved it.  She and her friend danced around for the better part of an hour singing “If you’re happy it’s your birthday stinky cheese!”  In fact, they still remembered it and sang it this year.  Kids…

And then there are the after photos:

True to my father’s character, he died the day before Emerson’s birthday.  He never would have wanted anything to stand in the way of or taint her special day in any way.  I came home the day of her birthday, after spending three days in the hospital, and that night we did just what Emerson had planned to do for her birthday – “walk around town.”  Actually, she wanted to go out for sushi and then walk around town, but she settled easily for hot dogs at home, because she’s easy like that.  So we went out into the hot summer night, and took in the sights and sounds of “town.”  There just happened to be a side-walk sale, so the streets were even more alive than usual.  It was a lovely night for a lovely girl, who–come to think of it–also spends a lot of time, graciously, in the background.  But that night, with Poppi looking over her, she was a shining star.

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