Today would have been my father’s 97th birthday, and it’s the first since he passed away. So it is, of course, a day when a few tears will be shed. But it’s more in keeping with his personality to take time to celebrate instead.
Beginning with his 90th, my dad gathered his family and closest friends for a dinner somewhere around Chicago. He chose good restaurants, but not fancy: the sort of place where a large group would be welcome to gather, be a little noisy, stay quite a while, and have a really great time. He chose Tufano’s for the 90th, then toured through Greektown, the Moon Palace, the Twin Anchors where we had to arrive really early to finish before the rush, and more than once to Piccolo Mondo near his home in Hyde Park.
Chicago weather makes it tough to gather a crowd on any particular date – snowstorms like this weekend’s can make it impossible to get in or to get out. More than once, I had a daunting drive through Wisconsin; twice I had to make emergency video lectures when I couldn’t home on time. But those celebrations! It was worth every white-knuckle minute of Friday night fending off drowsiness. The quiet joy and satisfaction on the Sunday return drive was always wonderful.
I tend to be an introvert and a pragmatic type, not much given to hoopla. If asked, I’d always choose a quiet meal with one or two people over a large gang in a noisy spot. But these birthday dinners were a great reminder that it’s not enough just to have family and friends, or even to spend time with them. Every so often, we need to find a way to make our circles visible, to relish the experience of being part of a group that we didn’t really choose, might not see very much – and yet, somehow, love very much.
I am glad to have dodged the 19 inches of snow in Chicago this weekend – but now we’ll have to figure out for ourselves when and how to gather. We certainly have a good example to follow. Happy Birthday, Dad.