I was never good at remembering, and with the increased complexity and demands of all that I've been given in this life, I'm only getting worse.
Seems like it should help me that it's the same day, the same month, every time, without fail.
Bam! There it is. A huge red ring might have been drawn around the date, but the calendar square is accusingly empty.
First, I struggle with remorse. The "shoulds" try to move in.
I should have programmed it on my phone, monthly, weekly, hourly reminders.
I should have shopped ahead, bought a card, signed, addressed, stamped, and then put a card in an accordion file near the door to make it easy to drop a perfect sentiment in the mailbox, flag up.
I should be a better - oh, whatever, go ahead and fill in the blank.
Then, the fussy neighbor "shouldn't" tries to move in too.
I shouldn't be so forgetful.
I shouldn't be so distractible.
I shouldn't waste so much time.
I shouldn't - well, the endings are endless.
The ongoing struggle for mental and emotional real estate doesn't seem to affect the outcome.
It snuck up again, and I'm unprepared.
The ache of wishing I'd been something I've not is heightened because my circle on the calendar follows his at the stroke of midnight. On the inhale it's his day, on the exhale it's mine. It's hypocritical, because when the big red circle on the calendar should be for me, I wrestle with feeling unloved if it gets forgotten, or necessarily pushed lower on the priority ladder. I secretly hope for my day to be made much of, and by extension, me too. I love parties, and presents, and feasts, and gifts of words...The very things I wish I could (or is it would?) extend to the one(s) I love.
He's never made a big deal of it. In fact, my mom, who always made a big deal of us, makes very little of him when it's his turn. She would probably like to, but he would probably prefer her to not. The day and its honoree is not ignored, it's just kept pretty quiet. A nearby sister will likely generously open her home, or bring a little something to him, and grandkids will be a blessing. He won't be entirely left alone.
When I call and confess that I missed another Hallmark moment, he won't waver in reassuring that it doesn't trouble him in the least that there's not going to be a commemorative piece of cardstock in his mailbox. But, still I feel it, some sense of having failed.
So, why this discomfort?
Truthfully, I don't know.
I wonder if it's because our close days threaten me a little - if it's so easy to forget him, is it easy to forget me? Consumed with thoughts of myself I don't recognize him? This only partially fits, but selfishness often plays a principle role in my shortcomings.
Maybe all it is can be summed up as false guilt, and I'm a little bit prone to being its victim, so the familiar cloud looms closer.
And, although those are likely both true, I think it might be something else.
I think it's the messy grace of it.
We're broken, imperfect, lacking people and we disappoint ourselves and one another.
And we fail. Really big. Many times I've done greater harm than being tardy with a card. I've judged harshly. Elevated knowledge above love. Demanded with selfish gain in view, not caring what it cost. I've required much grace.
And in spite of the mess I am, or the mess I create, he just, in his imperfect but proven way, gives me grace and loves me.
And the angst comes because I don't deserve it. Grace or love.
I know, because I've lived it myself, parents don't require children to do anything to be loved.
Parent love is profoundly powerful.
But, still, the longer I parent, the more I know we, (my children, I, any of us), do not deserve to be loved.
We make deep unlovable grooves in our track record of relationship.
And still, he loves the undeserving.
I don't imagine that writing this is better than a cake, a present, or a thoughtfully chosen and timely sent card.
But, it is my offering on this day.
My discomfort brings me up against my mess.
I profess it publically with words and images.
And he meets my mess with love and grace. Again.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
Thanks for fathering well, and for helping me know in your way, the abundance of grace and love that is ours in Christ Jesus, who has saved us from both from the undeserving heap of mess that is you and me, and has redeemed us through His deep love.