Christmas 2020

Well before Thanksgiving was underway, I knew I didn’t want to stay home for Christmas. Obviously, a pandemic makes this wish problematic. Whatever we came up with, we were going to take Mom with us, because she too didn’t want to stay home and dwell on the toll this year has taken.

After a bit of research, we chose a lovely cottage on Sugar Mountain in North Carolina. Chuck wanted to take the boys skiing for the first time, and Mom and I wanted to hide from the world for a bit. We arrived on Wednesday afternoon, just in time to go grocery shopping and get back to the house to make dinner. I poured Mom a glass of wine, and she was all set.

Christmas Eve was a rainy day, but a winter storm was coming. Underneath the snow that fell all evening was a solid sheet of ice by the following morning. It was beautiful, but we knew getting down the mountain was going to be a challenge.

The porch on Christmas Eve…
The porch on Christmas morning…
Still the best hair in the family…

We exchanged a few small gifts on Christmas morning and then occupied ourselves trying to figure out how to get Chuck, Jeremy, and Jackson down the mountain to the ski lodge. Fortunately, there was a taxi service (with four-wheel drive and all-weather tires) that picked them up and dropped them off. This meant Mom and I had the place to ourselves for an afternoon reading marathon.

The day after Christmas proved most beautiful because the sky was bright blue. With the winter storm out of the way, Mom wanted to take a quick trip outside on her new hip to get some photos. Of course I had to chaperone! The last thing we needed was for her to fall down.

This is the view directly across the street from the cottage. On the other side of those houses are the ski slopes. If you looked hard enough, you could see the ski lifts and folks skiing down the mountain. (We weren’t close enough to get a glimpse of Chuck and the boys.)

Jackson was brave to try skiing on Christmas Day, but he opted to join the reading club the day after Christmas while Chuck and Jeremy went a second time.

The homeowners were kind to set up a small Christmas tree for us to enjoy!

Of course, Dad wasn’t far from our minds. We knew the first Christmas without him was going to be difficult, but being in this cottage, away from all the reminders back home, helped us cope. He wouldn’t have wanted us to stay home and mope around, fighting tears and shaking a fist at the sky. Even when I was a little girl, he never liked us moping around. Get up and get on with it!

The cottage was perfect for our getaway. We all had a warm bed and space to schlep around in our pajamas. We watched movies, ate our weight in sugary treats, and only did the things we actually wanted to do. This was a huge bonus for me. I didn’t even bring my laptop! After staying home all year to take care of Dad (and follow pandemic guidelines), a quick trip to the snowy mountains was exactly what we needed.

The next big hurdle is New Year’s Eve, a holiday that’s always been marked by a big, boisterous phone call from my parents wishing us a Happy New Year. Dad would call us promptly at midnight, all giggly and loud, and I’d laugh and roll my eyes at how goofy they sounded.

Now I’d give anything to have that phone call at midnight. Instead, Mom will stay the night with us, but I’m not totally sure I’ll stay up to watch the ball drop. The quicker I fall asleep, the sooner I can leave this wretched year behind.

Christmas, though, was delightful. There were moments of sadness, obviously, but now I’m ready to start a new year without illness or fear or a heap of doctor’s appointments weighing us down. I’m ready for a slower pace, if you can believe that. I’m ready to walk into a calmer year.

Lord willing.

Spreading Dad’s Ashes

Before Dad passed away, we all talked about what he wanted to happen with his remains. No question, his heart belongs to West Virginia, but a good chunk of it also belongs to Tennessee. He decided, and we agreed, that part of his remains should be spread here and the rest should be spread and buried in the family cemetery back home in Meadow Bridge.

With a handful of negative COVID tests, the Przyluckis drove down from Chicago for Thanksgiving and to participate in a private, outdoor ceremony for Dad. We decided to spread his ashes in the place where we last went fishing together.

Though we wished for Mamaw, Aunt Gloria, and Dallas to join us, COVID concerns are pretty steep, and, Lord willing, we’ll be in West Virginia in the spring for the second part of Dad’s memorial anyway. It felt like the wiser decision for them to stay home and stay safe. Fortunately, our cousin Paul could join us.

Even though our West Virginia family couldn’t attend, Dad’s home state was well represented.


In addition to our family, we had a bagpiping friend join us (from afar) to play “Amazing Grace” at the beginning and “Scotland the Brave” at end of our short but sweet service. As soon as Andrew started playing, we all teared up. There is no other sound more fitting in the Great Smoky Mountains than the sound of bagpipes.

Becky read Ecclesiastes 5: 18-20 and John 14, and then I read a poem titled “He is Gone” by David Harkins. Jeff said a prayer, and then Chuck waded into the river to release Dad’s ashes.

It was all more emotional than I anticipated, but I think that’s exactly what I’ve been needing.



He is Gone

You can shed tears that he is gone
Or you can smile because he has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

-David Hawkins


When Andrew had finished playing the bagpipes, it was Owen’s turn to play “Taps” on his trumpet.

Once we’d gotten our tears out, it was time to remember how grateful we were to have one another and that we spent so much quality time with Dad before he left. All the grandboys gave Grandma big bear hugs.

I think Dad would’ve been pleased that we didn’t make a big fuss. Instead, we honored him in an authentic, heartfelt way and then spent the rest of the day together.

When I think back to what we’ve been through this year, I can’t quite believe it. The anniversary of Dad’s big stroke is in seven days. Has it really been a year? It’s felt as if from that moment on – December 8, 2019 – it was one hurdle after another.

And yet, it was still year with plenty of good days and happy moments. I’m not sure I’ve ever spent so much one-on-one time with Dad, minus my tenth grade year when he drove me to and from school every day. I miss him terribly. We all miss him. But in that missing is the knowledge that he provided a good life for us, loved us deeply, and didn’t want to leave us so soon.

The Holidays and Impending Doom

Last week I sat in the car with a dear friend as I finally said the words I’ve been holding in for a while: “I think I’m depressed.”

She replied appropriately: “You think??

Once I said the words, I started to cry and tell her how I wanted to quit everything, even the things I love. I love teaching English, but I want to quit. I love writing for a magazine, but I want to quit. I love being a mom, but please no one ask me what’s for dinner for the next three months.

I’m not a quitter, so I won’t quit, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to hit pause and run away for a while.

I unloaded all of these things on Chuck’s lap when I got home that same afternoon, things he understood perfectly after living through the deaths of both of his parents and his sister over the course of eight years. He knows the feeling of wanting to quit, but yeah – we don’t do that. We BUCK UP. So I am.



And yet, it’s a new month, which means I have a renewed sense of dread to accompany the ever-present weight of grief and sorrow I’ve been carrying since December 2019.

Despite Dad being gone nearly eight weeks now, I know my body has been storing up anxiety since his first stroke. When I think about the anniversary of that event getting closer, my chest tightens and my brain runs circles around the memory. I will never forget the moment Becky called me and said, breathlessly, “DID DAD HAVE A STROKE?”

I am sad to see October go, particularly since I want nothing to do with Thanksgiving or Christmas. I’ve been in this headspace before with the holidays, so the feeling is familiar to me. We’ve managed grief through Thanksgiving and Christmas too many times – we’re nearly pros! – so I’m already unearthing some helpful coping mechanisms.

First and foremost, there will be no watching White Christmas since I can’t text Dad to tell him it’s on TV and that he needs to change the channel so we can watch it together in our separate houses.

Yeah, I can’t go there.

Thanksgiving will be the first hurdle. It was the last proper holiday we had with him before the stroke. Mom and Dad came to Thanksgiving dinner at my house, and when we said goodbye that evening, it was the last time I saw my father outside of a wheelchair or walker. It was the last time I had a conversation with him with clear speech.

We are planning a small, private service over Thanksgiving to carry out one of Dad’s memorial wishes, so I look forward to seeing Mamaw again and having the family come in town.

But, make no mistake – the whole week will feel like an anvil on my chest.

Likewise, I cannot conceive of setting up one single holiday decoration or hearing one single, solitary Christmas song. Respectfully, I am uninterested. God bless all of you swapping out your Halloween decor for Christmas trees, but I can’t join you this year. I haven’t yet sorted out how we’ll tackle Christmas, but sitting in a sad house is not a viable solution.

DAMN YOU, TRAVEL BAN. And damn you too, Covid. You’re the worst.



Okay. Shall we talk about more uplifting topics now?

OH WAIT —

Unfortunately, what kicks off the holiday season is a no-good, terrible, soul-sucking election week. Because I am politically homeless, I will be distressed either way. (I do vote though. I vote my conscience and am usually left disappointed. I’m not sure what that says about me.) Washington DC is full of bad actors, and I don’t buy anything they’re selling, particularly their deepest desire to scare the living hell out of us. NO THANK YOU.

What really grieves me is the level of distrust among fellow citizens. I have a wonderfully diverse set of friends and family members, so no matter which way this week shakes out, I’ll be worried about a chunk of them (some more than others).



Just remember this: Donald Trump did not attend your wedding. Joe Biden did not celebrate the birth of your child. Mike Pence did not congratulate you on your new job. Kamala Harris did not check on you during the lockdown to see if you were okay. Not a single politician will send you condolences when your parents pass away.

These people are not your saviors or our superheroes. They aren’t your ride-or-die friends, or your actual family members. Be careful you don’t sever the very relationships you will need as we head into the great unknown of our strange future.

Either I read too many dystopian novels, or I read all the right ones, but what worries me more than any presidency is the breakdown of our most important connections with one another. After the year we’ve had, we can’t afford it.

Godspeed, everyone. Hold on tight.

Life in the After

I don’t know what to call this space – these days that unfolded “after Dad died”. I don’t want everything I do or think about to be marred by his death because the focus is misplaced. Plus, Dad wouldn’t like it. Shall we just call it After? First we had Before, now we have After. I don’t know how else to bookmark the days.

This Thursday makes three weeks since Dad passed away, and though I seem able to move through the day with ease a lot of the time, there have been moments when I felt nearly paralyzed with indecision or frozen with a blank mind. I have work to do, and yet, I could easily stare at a wall for an indefinite amount of time. I could sit on the porch and watch the birds, or I could start working on something at my computer only to give up in five minutes to gaze out the window. It still feels like my brain is floating in a jar on a shelf.

In this After, we followed through with a few pre-made plans, and those activities have helped to distract me, forcing me to think of other things instead of dwelling in this headspace.

Last Saturday, I joined Chuck on a quick trip to the hunting lease. He needed to check his game cameras, and I needed to leave my house to breathe different air. The hunting lease is a beautiful piece of property, despite what ultimately happens there, and riding around in the forest gave me the temporary peace of mind I was looking for.

As soon as I came home, the haze returned.

Similarly, we spent this last weekend in Chattanooga, as I already had plans to take senior photos of Grace and Ethan. I didn’t want to cancel on account of grief because I knew leaving the house would be good for me. Staying in a hotel and reading a book next to a swimming pool was the change of scenery – again – that I needed.

Seeing our friends though? Invaluable! We even saw Hayli, whom we haven’t seen in more than a year.

We laughed and enjoyed the heck out of each other, and I was grateful for every moment, but sure enough, as soon as we got home, I felt sad and irritated.

I realize now that working from home while also grieving is proving to be a challenge. If I worked in a traditional environment, I could take some bereavement days. I could cash in on vacation days. Or, I could go to a place and do the work there; then I could come home and crawl into bed. I could separate these two things, untangle work from home.

As a freelance writer and teacher, I don’t have that option. Sure, I built the life I wanted, but here in-lies the newly-discovered flaw: When you need your home to be a place of refuge, it can’t be a place of refuge when you’re behind on grading papers or on deadline for a magazine. Instead, home is a place of multiplying levels of anxiety, particularly when the boys need something basic, like dinner.

Currently, all I really have to look forward to right now are breaks from school (fall break, holidays, etc), but even then, I’m planning to work ahead for my classes and help Mom clean out Dad’s home office. Both tasks need to be done, so it is what it is.

I know grief is a weird animal that presents itself at different moments in different ways to different people. Right now, grief is most prominent on Thursdays. My body subconsciously counts the minutes and recalls the last day moment by moment leading up to 9:45 p.m. Leave it to my goofy brain to grieve on a schedule.

And yet, grief is lingering in the background every other day, too. It is the ghost behind me, the court jester in the corner of the room. Grief is both a memory and a nightmare – remembering our rides to and from school together in Chattanooga, then recalling how horrible his breathing sounded in his last few hours. My memories bring comfort, then pain. The cycle continues.

Anger is there too, cozied up alongside grief. They are quite a pair! I am furious that we’re entering the most beautiful season in Tennessee and Dad won’t be here to see it. I am angry that Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve are all on Thursdays. I am haunted by how horrible last New Year’s Eve was and preparing for this one to feel even worse.

People have told me, based on their own experiences, that grief unfolds at random times. It can be months and years before I truly process and understand my own feelings on Dad’s death. I believe this to be true, but what in the world will these months and years even look like? If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.

We’re about to enter my favorite month, and wouldn’t you know – OCTOBER STARTS ON THURSDAY. As I raise my fist to the sky in protest, Dad’s voice booms in my ear: “Buck up, Kid!”

All I can say in response is, “I’m trying, Dad! I’m trying!”

Summer is here and hell is empty

Becky, Jeff, and Owen came to town last week to be with us as we heard the results of Dad’s PET scan. We’ve been waiting for this news for more than a month, and I’m happy to report that the cardiac sarcoma hasn’t grown nor spread to other parts of the body. There is still something there in the center of Dad’s heart, but that’s along the lines of what we expected. Dad will start taking a daily chemo pill to delay its regrowth. There are many options when it comes to chemo pills, so he may have to try several to find the one with the fewest side effects.

To say Dad is cancer-free would be untrue, but we’ve bought time, and that is a huge blessing and relief compared to the fear we carried in December, January, and February.

Dad’s daily struggle remains to be the side effects of the stroke (caused by the heart tumor). As much as we know about the human body and the resilience of a determined man, it is a mystery as to why he isn’t walking independently. But, that’s what a brain injury does: it messes with your whole system. Dad manages on his own during the day to a degree, and there is a steady rotation of OT and PT therapists coming to the house. He isn’t a quitter. He won’t give up.

His spirits are steady, too. My cousin Paul and his family joined us on Saturday for dinner on the deck, and he and Dad raised a glass to the positive test results. It was a good time being together.

We’ve taken Dad fishing a second time since our boat day in early May. I remembered there was a handicap-accessible fishing spot on the Little River, so last week we threw a few lines in, even though the water level was low and the chances of catching anything were slim. Any opportunity to get Dad in nature is worthwhile. You just have to STEER CLEAR when he’s casting because those unruly stroke hands are all over the place.

Chuck and I slipped out to fish early Sunday morning and stumbled upon a dock near us that is perfect for Dad. It’s secluded with plenty of room to spread out. Plus, it has little dips in the railing that should work well for him in the wheelchair.

So yes, it’s finally summer, and we’re enjoying every bit of good weather we can. Our magnolia tree has bloomed, and Chuck and I (with Salem) are relishing our low-humidity evenings on the front porch.

Finally, a few words about this week on the national front. If you know me in real life, then you know already know I feel. If we are close, then we likely share similar feelings of despair. George Floyd was murdered, and a longsuffering pot of boiling anger bubbled over (again). Unfortunately, I think the anxiety and the steady undercurrent of stress from months of isolation during COVID have only made us even less capable of managing ourselves in this chaos. As an ally, I am a patient listener and a deep thinker, but I’ve got to stop watching videos of cities, businesses, and people on fire. From now on, I’m censoring the articles I read and focusing on the positive things I can do to promote change. I’m not silent, but I’m not running my mouth either.

I’ll leave you with my favorite line from The Tempest:

I’m wrestling with a lot of conflicting thoughts right now, but, like Shakespeare’s Ferdinand, we have to call out evil when we see it, whether it be a devil’s knee on the neck of a dying man or the convenient delivery of bricks to an angry crowd.

Lord, your mercy.

My Safer-At-Home Begins and Thoughts on The Great Pause

First of all, Happy Birthday, Dad! It’s a milestone, and I’m so grateful for it 🙂

While most of the country started social distancing in March, I was still spending afternoons with Dad at the cancer institute. We had hours together each day amid other patients and their caregivers. By the end of his treatment, a nurse was assigned to the front door to take temperatures and hand out masks to everyone who came inside.

But now he’s finished! Mom and Dad rang the bell on April 7, and Dad went home from the rehab center that afternoon. We’ve entered another new normal, and when I think about the place from where we’ve come, I nearly get whiplash. First, they were stuck in California, then the rehab center, then the lockdown… It’s a testimony to how capable we really are when we put our heads down and keep moving forward, even when it feels impossible.

Now, he’s home! Medical equipment is set up in the house and my parents are adjusting as best they can. We’re in a holding pattern until the end of April and beginning of May when Dad will undergo scans and tests to determine if the treatment even worked. We have no idea what to expect, so we’re all just trying not to think about it.

Since the number of doctors’ appointments have dropped dramatically, that means I’m just now starting to stay home. I’ve gone to the grocery store, and I went for a run once at the Greenway (there were fewer people there than I expected), but for the most part, we’re staying home. I’m immensely grateful.

We finally got the garden started, so yes – I guess we had to go out and buy plants for it since I didn’t make the time or have the thought to start with seedlings. However, I was happy to see that the local co-op was limiting the number of people entering the store and corralling shoppers through specific doors.

Every time we’ve gone out in public, we’ve taken precautions. And every time we’ve interacted with others in the community, people were respectful and careful. Maybe these are the perks of small-town life. I know COVID-19 is here (to date, we’ve had three recorded deaths in our county), but I don’t think many people are being overtly careless. There will always be outliers, but I think most of us are doing our best.

Fortunately, we live out in the county where I can run on backroads and never interact with other people. With our gym temporarily closed, I’m back to running four and five days a week. I even signed up for a virtual race because – well, why not?

Just as I’m settling into my Safer-At-Home orders from the governor, Jeremy is struggling to manage the loss of a promising soccer season and the necessary friend time he craves as an extrovert. I’m not even poking fun! I know he’s miserable, and I wish I could fix it. The only high point of the last five weeks is the driving time we’ve afforded him.

Here he is driving me to pick up Mexican for dinner one night (to-go):

Chuck, Jackson, and I are homebodies and tend to prefer a quieter life, but Jeremy is dying a slow death from boredom and disconnection. We’ve involved the kids in all sorts of household projects and chores, but that doesn’t feed Jeremy’s need to be social, nor does it even remotely fix the problem of no soccer. Productivity funnels his energy, but it doesn’t fix the psychological need to feel connected to the world. I hate to think what the summer will be like for him if things don’t change for a while.


I don’t know who to credit for calling this time The Great Pause, but I think it’s spot-on. I know not everyone’s COVID crisis is the same. Mercifully, Chuck’s job is secure even though my freelance work will likely shift or potentially dry up. We are already homeschoolers, so our education plan for the boys is not hugely impacted. (It’s impacted, but not in a way that’s life-altering. Read more about that here.) I’m a decent cook and gardener, and Chuck is a hunter, so even food-wise, we have the means to figure out meals without a ton of outside help. In a nutshell, our COVID experience looks quite different from someone who lives in Midtown Manhattan or even downtown Knoxville. It looks different from households with two parents who work outside the home, or a single parent who works full time, or any other possible scenario in any American home. If boredom is our greatest pain, then we have nothing to complain about.

But I’m still using this time to think carefully about our lives, about how we spend our time, about what we spend our money on. I’ve even walked through each room in the house and considered the things we have – do we need this stuff? Could we downsize our belongings a little more? When this is all over, how do we want our lives to look? Crisis tends to make life come into focus for me, so I’m spending The Great Pause in deep thought.

We have four weeks of school left, but my ambition is thin. I’m already preparing final tests and getting my thoughts together on next year. However, whenever I see articles on the coronavirus, I keep reading words like “if we go back in August” and I cannot wrap my brain around The Great Pause going beyond the summer.

Truly, 2020, you’ve outdone yourself. You can stop now.

The Coronavirus Curveball

We are two weeks into Dad’s treatment for cardiac sarcoma, and now the rehab center, where he lives full time, is on lockdown.

Before today, we’ve been able to spend as much time with Dad as we wanted to at the rehab center. In fact, Mom spent most of February sleeping in his room at night so he wouldn’t be alone.

Now, and for good reason, the facility isn’t letting in any visitors, and all employees must get a fever check prior to coming inside.

Today I visited Dad one last time (outside the facility) and reassured him that we’d still have time together during his weekday treatments. Truth be told, I was put off by the idea of DAILY radiation two weeks ago, and now I’m grateful. See how quickly everything can change?

The disconnection we’re all feeling is palpable. Mom and Dad want to be together, and Becky and I want to be there to help them, but we’re all separated by miles, and the coronavirus has thrown us a curveball.

Yet, in an attempt to remain grateful for every possible blessing, I’m reflecting on our ability to be with him during treatment, to help him re-learn to walk when we’re together, and to share stories from years past (nostalgia has always been my favorite drug).

We are still laughing and smiling as much as possible (sometimes too loudly, as seen in this photo – Mom was trying her best to hold it in). 🙂

We have no idea how long the lockdown will be in place. The administrators probably don’t know either. No one knows anything, so we’re all doing what feels best and right. I want to stay well so I can sit with Dad during chemotherapy, so I can be his taxi after radiation, so I can keep doing whatever I need to do to help my mom. If that means shutting the world down for three weeks, then that’s fine with me.

As for Dad, he’s is determined and steadfast. “Just tell me what to do,” he keeps saying. I love it. I see myself in him so frequently these days. Stubborn yet self-critical. If they told him to climb Mount LeConte, he’d grab his walker and give it a go.

And we’d be right there cheering him on.

On the Eve of Chemotherapy and Super Tuesday

Those two things, in theory, should be unrelated, but sometimes things fall together on a calendar for a reason.

For what it’s worth, I have no idea why or how my father’s first chemotherapy appointment and the primary election in Tennessee have aligned this way, but here we are.

It’s been a little more than a month since my parents returned to Tennessee from their two-month stint in California. Dad has made tremendous progress in these last few weeks. His goal is to walk independently (with a walker), and he’s as stubborn as ever, God love him. I spent Sunday afternoon with Mom and Dad at the rehab center, and his resolve is solid. Up and down, left and right, he was practicing. He wants so badly to go home. We all want that.

For now, though, he needs to stay put since he’s in the best possible place. We have no idea what chemotherapy and radiation will do to the tumor or his body. We don’t know what side effects he’ll have, how tired he’ll feel, or whether or not this treatment will have any impact at all. We don’t even have statistics to rely on. That’s how rare this cancer is.

But I digress. We will do what we’ve always done as a family – keep moving forward and laugh as much as possible.

As far as Super Tuesday is concerned, I’ll slip in to vote tomorrow on my way back from the hospital, and then I’ll stay up tomorrow night to watch the returns. It’s been a wild election year already, but I’m feeling the way I always feel – the people I vote for don’t get elected. That’s what it means to be politically homeless.

I don’t know what tomorrow brings for us as a family or us as a country, but faith is good for times like these. I may not know what’s going to happen, but I’m not worried in a philosophical or theological way. Life goes on. The sun sets, and then it comes up again the next morning. God is faithful. He’s near. And, we have each other. These are the things that truly matter.

The rest, I guess, is left to the wind.

Happy Birthday, Dad

Another special occasion has come around and we’ve still managed to keep our immediate family spread between three states and our extended family spread between six (or seven, or eight? I can’t keep track…). Anyway, regardless of distance, I’m thinking of you this weekend, Dad. I wish I could bake you a cake and join you for dinner and hang out for a movie like usual.

Instead, I’ll post this picture and send my well wishes from a distance. We love you very much.

Why I Wear an Army Hoodie

I’m not sure exactly when I stole it. It could’ve been before I left for college in 1996, or when I moved back home from college in 2000 before getting married. It might have been long before any of that. I really don’t remember. All I know is that this is my father’s Army hoodie from his two decades of service and I wear it just about every day.

It’s extremely attractive. Just ask Chuck.

Almost every time I put it on or get a glimpse of those big, black block letters in the mirror, I think of my dad. He and I have always had a really good relationship. (Minus that summer before my junior year of high school. I don’t know what I was thinking.)  When I was little, I’d follow him around always seeking a hug or praise, anything that reflected his approval and affection. It was with him that I’d watch old “Star Trek” episodes or hours (upon hours) of golf. I started gardening with him when I was in middle school and we carpooled to school together throughout high school. I’d tag along on errands or help him in the yard, but it was only  just to be with him.

As I got older and began to read him a little better, I noticed many of my own personality traits were similar to his.  We are known for our occasional impatience, our sometimes coarse humor and our affinity for black and white movies. Since living apart there’ve been many times when Dad and I have sat in the living room together saying very little, and in the end we each consider it a “good visit.”

Something else I stole have of my father’s is his high school class ring. I think I’ve had this since the early 90s when we lived in Atlanta, but it truly could’ve been before then too. It’s been in my jewelry box a long time.

Today is my dad’s 59th birthday and even though I live on the eastern side of the Mississippi River now, we’re still a good 11 hours away from each other. So this is a long-distance birthday wish for you, Dad: May this year bring you closer to home, may it bring you contentment in life, and may it bless you with more laughter than your body can take.

I love you, Dad! See you soon.