It's my Pops birthday. I remember talking to a psychologist friend at a party who was explaining off-handedly the natural moment in becoming an adult when one realizes their parents don't really know everything. I was bewildered. What if your father actually knows an awful lot about so many things -- and fluidly guesses at what he doesn't know -- a brilliant, funny man with a gentle soul? What if you're lucky enough to have a father who's your chief adviser and primary counsel and foremost researcher and one of your best friends?
My father is a man who still dances like Zorba the Greek in the kitchen, in fact, who dances almost daily at age 79, who was a corporate lawyer and engineer but most clearly valued my mother's role at home raising us.
A man who would get home from work and start playing four-square with us in the street -- though, arguably, making more complex rules for the game -- who loves the theater and keeps a record of every play he's ever seen on stacks of index cards (how I could backtrack and figure out that he once took me to see TRUE WEST off-broadway with Malkovich and Sinise, when I was 13).
A man who's so cheap he drove a car with no second gear for ages, used to have a canvas kind-of briefcase (that I once held out the window of that car -- holding it hostage until we could come to terms on radio stations), buys his Velcro shoes at Walmart -- and asks for his money back if they wear out too soon -- but who is incredibly generous about the things that matter to him the most -- education, travel, and his kids.
A man who taught me how to argue, present my case, and stand my ground at the dining room table, who retired at 57 and, having talked about how much he valued my mother's work raising kids, actually walked the walk, driving carpools, making paper airplanes, playing every crazy made-up game my kids -- actually all 13 of his grandkids -- could come up with (and adding his own, again, rules to enrich the game), who offered to "build my wedding hat" -- he wasn't hired, but I appreciated the gesture.
A man who chokes up when he sees heroism -- that pilot landing the plane in the Hudson -- a man who became a pilot himself after he retired. But who also chokes up in the same three scenes every time he watches THE PARENT TRAP with the grandkids. And now he writes books and writes his own mock-reviews -- which are the harshest and funniest reviews I've ever read.
He's also clairvoyant -- but only in one area -- he dreams about his grandchildren before they're born. He once dreamed that his three daughters and one daughter in law were each holding a baby. It was highly unlikely that each of us would have a baby, for various reasons, but after three of us announced our pregnancies -- and one of my sisters who was finished having kids was getting very nervous -- my sister-in-law found out she was pregnant with twins.
My father was also once visited by God in a dream. Not a hugely religious man -- though soulful -- it was a clear message -- and one that I try to teach -- that every person has a full and rich an interior life with dreams and fears and desires and we should meet each person with the understanding of their full humanity. He approaches his fellow humans this way, with great generosity. He's open-minded and kind and, if you sit close to him at a dinner party, you'll get the quippy side commentary, the wry Bill Baggott.
Once when I was a freshman in college, I was getting off the phone with my father, and he'd said, "I like you," and I'd said, "I like you, too." It's different, at that age, than I love you -- you're just getting to know each other in a way... I didn't think much of it, but my roommate had overheard and said, "That's the sweetest thing I've ever heard." We hadn't meant to be sweet.
Happy Birthday to my Pops -- a man I like and love so very much. I'm so thankful to be your daughter, Snots.