Birthday wishes to my kids’ Uncle John


Iles Park, Springfield, IL, circa 1975

My sister, my older younger brother, and I were all born in June. My brother’s birthday comes first on the calendar, so the family birthday season kicks off today.

We had a lot of fun together through the years, and even if I’m not happy with how I look in this old photo, I’m glad to have a reminder of us being kids together.

I hope he has a great day, and a great year following after that.

Another year older


If I had to put a date on the picture above, I would say it was taken in about 2001, or a decade ago, at least. My younger brother (actually older younger brother, since I have two of them) has a big part of my life from the earliest memories I have. Our exploits as kids live in the recesses of my memories, and they even get a new airing from time to time when my daughters want to hear a bedtime story about somebody other than me. The time when he wrote the f-word on one of his tennis shoes never fails to get a good laugh, from them and from me.

Today I sent him a birthday greeting on Facebook, which seems to have supplanted the annual ritual of a birthday card or a telephone call. The instant gratification of it is much better than picking out a card, finding his address wherever I have it written down, and sending in the mail a few days early to make sure it arrives on time. I could probably count on one hand how many times I was able to pull all of these off on or before his birthday. More often than not, I probably skipped it, and I regret doing that. I’m taking the time to write this to make up for some of the times I did this.

Birthdays were a funny thing when we were kids. We got to choose what we had for dinner at home that evening, and that made the day seem special. Since he, my sister and I all have June birthdays, we never got to bring anything in for our classmates at school. Only my youngest brother got to do that, since he was born in April. Lucky him.

After dinner, my grandparents would come over to our house, or sometimes we would go over to their house, for cake and ice cream. And my mother had a strange custom of putting three candles on out cake, regardless of how old we actually were. Something about the past and the present and the future. But it resulted in cake and ice cream, and how it was presented wasn’t really that important.

Birthdays haven’t been like that for us in a long time. He has his life now, and I have mine, and I see him a couple times a year if I’m lucky. But he and my sister and my other brother are with me all the time in my memories, and I’m grateful for that. So even if it’s late in the day, I still wish him a happy birthday, in the hope that the two of us will have some more of them in the years still to come.

With thanks and love to my father

My father is turning 65 this week. I don’t know whether or not he reads this blog, but I’ve mentioned him several times since I started writing in this space last summer. He is the source of my name, my left-handedness, and my love of baseball. Any brilliance that I may have comes from him, or perhaps from my mother. But the role that he’s had on shaping my life has been undeniable.

The picture above was taken on my first birthday, when he and my mom were both in their early 20s. I’m struck by the fact that with me on his arm, my sister about a week away from being born, and the draft in Vietnam all hanging over his head, he somehow managed to have a big smile on his face. There’s just no way I could have managed all that stress.

My father’s father died when he was in high school, so he never had a chance to see his own father through an adult’s eyes. I’m grateful to be able to do this with my own dad, and I’m glad that he’s been able to meet my children and be a part of their lives.

One of the reasons I write this blog is to give myself a platform for sending messages out to the wider world. My father isn’t on Facebook, and never will be, so writing a silly little birthday greeting on his wall isn’t an option. And I’ve stopped sending birthday cards a long time ago, partly because I’m lazy and partly because I know, from what I do with the birthday cards I get, is that they’ll be looked at for a brief second and then discarded. We’ll probably talk on the phone for a few minutes on his birthday, as we normally do. But writing a birthday wish to him on this site–and also sharing a long-forgotten picture–will live on forever, and have a wider reach than any card ever would. I’d rather have it that way, and perhaps he would, too.

Being a father is the most exhilarating thing that I’ve ever done with my life. But it wasn’t until I became a father that I realized what a fun–and vital–role this is to play in a child’s life. Thanks for everything Dad, whether you read this or not.