Thirty years ago, in the summer of 1986, I met a beautiful family. I didn't know then... couldn't have known really... how important they would become to me. I was only 20, and although you think you have your whole life figured out when you're twenty... well, when you're fifty something, you get a little wiser.
In time, I would slowly become as much a part of their hearts as they did of mine. Sometimes people say they don't remember what life was like before such and such. But I do. I do remember. Without these five people... I'm not entirely sure where my life would be today. They've given so much of themselves to me over the last 30 years. There are not words meaningful enough to convey how blessed that makes me... on the receiving end. I hope I have given even half as much back to them.
Today is dad's birthday. He is part of every important day of the last 3 decades of my life. When I graduated from college, he gave me a tiny diamond on a gold chain. I still wear it to this day. In fact, I'm wearing it as I write tonight. When I married his son, he was the one who needed the tissues, though he offered them to everyone else around him too as he smiled through his tears. When we bought our first house, he gave me the most beautiful delicate set of china teacups painted with colorful flowers and he said privately to me, "Because they remind me of you, Roni." And when my first son was born, he looked at me almost in awe, and did nothing but wink. I never once felt like I had to earn his approval. He just gave it, unconditionally.
But the one most important moment I remember in our own personal history might surprise you. It was an ordinary visit, on an ordinary day. We had just finished an ordinary meal after a good old fashioned ordinary conversation. He and I stayed in the kitchen afterward to do the dishes.. and without thinking, I handed him a plate after rinsing it off and said simply, "Here you go, dad." He paused only briefly and he didn't even look my way. He just loaded that plate into the dishwasher and smiled.
If I could give him a gift tonight, it would be to take him back to that moment. The one where we knew we belonged to each other in a new and special way... and that it was gonna last a lifetime.
And it has. And I am found.
Happy birthday, dad. I will always love you the same way I did back then. On that lovely ordinary day when we washed the dishes.