Every time I see this photo my heart breaks again. He was desperate to loose his first tooth. His brother had been doing it for years. He said if my tooth falls out today, I get three hot dates with you. Of course I agreed because it seemed like a would win in this situation. Adventure with him was always fun for me and I’d honestly give him all the hot dates for free. He disappeared into the bathroom. 15 minutes later I tapped on the door to see if he was okay. He said “I’m fine mom.” Ten minutes later I asked again. Then nearly 45 minutes from entering the bathroom he emerged triumphantly with tooth in hand. He held it out to me and immediately burst into tears. “I don’t want my tooth to be out he wept.” He was heartbroken. He cried desperately for what felt like a lifetime but might have been closer to 20 minutes. I held him. It was one of those moments where I couldn’t undo or fix things I could only witness the grief. The tears did stop. The potential for a cash gain from the tooth fairy arrived (and trust you me the tooth fairy was ready to handy over a a pretty penny at this point) and promises of fun times doing whatever he chose together settled in so the tears could abate. That is when this photo was taken. The moment after all of that. Each time I see it, I find the evidence of his tears in his eyes and I feel all over again. Reminding me how often a moment can hold both great triumph and deep sorrow.
I didn’t grow up in America. I grew up in Canada. I celebrated something different on the 4th of July. Walking around the last few days people are saying to me “happy 4th” and “I hope you have a good 4th” I spare them the tears I have been choking back. Instead I smile and wish them the same back. I mean how could they know. How could they know that I should be at home baking a cake for my dad. Hearing him remind us all again that he is certain American’s adore him because of the party they throw each year for his birthday. They don’t know the last time I wished my dad a happy birthday was ten years ago. They don’t know how desperately I wish he lived to see the age of 72 so my teenaged boys could blow out candles with him and make jokes about how old he is getting. They don’t know any of this when the say wish me a celebration on a day that I know will come with tears.
Still I will celebrate. With the afore mentioned cake and feasting on favorites that would certainly appear at any party made for my dad. I know it’s what he’d want. Us living on in the boldest ways possibly. He wouldn’t want anything to stop because of him. He wouldn’t ask for somber moments. So alongside the tears that spill from my eyes there will be laughter. Stories, on repeat that they boys can now tell themselves without any help from me, about the man they lost before really getting to know him. Becuase without this day none of what is before me right now would exist. And when I look into the eyes of the young men I call my sons, I am grateful for the birth of the man would brought me into the world so that I might know them. When I get a call from my nephews and we giggle together I am grateful for the son my father raised to bring those two human beings into the world. When his words ring in my mind over and over again “it’s about the love Shan,” I am drop to my knees grateful for the lessons he gave to me, especially in the final year of his life when he was embracing growth and change at rapid speeds.
Yes today alongside my grief, there will be buckets of joy and gratitude for what this day, in 1945, brought upon the world, to be my father, my son’s grandfather, a wise teacher and the giver a love that continues beyond his physical existence. Here’s to you dad.