A Note to My Father on His 74th Birthday

Dear Dad:

It’s 12:25 am, so you are probably sitting at the kitchen table having your late-night snack.

And while could probably call, I didn’t want to wake up mom.

So I had to write you a quick note because I didn’t want you to think I forgot your birthday.

Because I didn’t.

But by the time I can talk to you tomorrow, it will be late afternoon, so I just wanted to tell you a few things.

Last week, I went out to buy you a gift.

I bought you a Syracuse University stadium blanket.

You know, the kind of thing that you can cozy up under when you watch SU sports on television.

I talked to mom and she said that you have many blankets and that it would be a waste.

So I returned it.

Because I know she is right.

You wouldn’t really want a blanket.

Then mom suggested that I buy you sweatpants.

She told me your size and a brand name and even where to go.

And I thought about it, but seriously… sweatpants?

I couldn’t do it, Dad.

We need a new picture!

You mean more to me than sweatpants.

Even if you can really use them.

Because you can buy your own sweatpants. And every time I try to buy you pants, you end up having to return them for a different color or size or style, so what’s the point?

And anyway I know that what you really want is for me to be with you on your birthday.

To cozy up with you under one of your many warm blankets, probably on the couch in the sunroom.

To sit at the kitchen table and share a tangerine and a few dozen handfuls of peanuts.

To talk about politics or do a crossword puzzle until we finish it.

Even if that means staying up way past midnight.

But I can’t be there, Dad.

I just wanted you to know that I know what you want.

You want your family.

Your children and your grand-children.

I will talk to you later, okay?


Your only daughter

How do you show you love and appreciate someone when you can’t be near them?

58 thoughts on “A Note to My Father on His 74th Birthday

  1. I take lots and lots of photos of my children to share with them.

    I video conference with them, via facetime or Skype.

    I write blogs containing videos and photos and stories so they glimpse the parts of my life they miss.

    I love your note to your dad.

    And I totally get the no sweatpants thing.

  2. Happy Birthday Renee’s dad!!
    I call to talk and catch up. I have written many family stories that I think they enjoy and try to visit when I can.
    Great post and use of the magnetic board!!!

  3. A touching and very real struggle kids face when in the sandwich generation and often not living near each other. Birthdays and holidays are a challenge. But do take advantage of the times you CAN be together. I had the pleasure of being with my mom on Mother’s Day this past year. I missed being with my own kids, knowing one was about to graduate HS and move on with his life. But I treasured that day and am now grateful that we were together on what was her last Mother’s Day on this earth. Please wish your dad a happy birthday for me too!

    1. Ange:

      Life is just so hectic — and I only have one kid.

      And with the holidays coming up, I always feel like my father gets neglected.

      And for the record, I did get him something — but it will be late.

      But I will call him this afternoon.

  4. Like Kelly above, I rely on Face Time in some cases–usually with Ba.D. on Mondays and Tuesdays, which are his long work days.

    I video chat with my siblings about once a month, but other than that send things throughout the year that I think folks will love, as well as exchange text messages and emails to let those beloved but far away in space know they’re near in my heart.

    I’ve written a few songs, too. It’s neat to hear someone humming a song you’ve written them. Songs have a way of sticking in the head, which is exactly why they’re such a wonderful way of saying, a la one of Li’l D’s favorite books, “Wherever you are, my love will find you” (via a song you cannot get out of your head, mwa).

    1. Maybe I am projecting, but I am not a fan of the text message. You have to know your people’s hearts, right?

      Like, I KNOW my dad would not want sweatpants.

      And, truth be told, I also knew the blanket wasn’t really right. But I was trying.

      My brother sent me a text message for my birthday. To me, a text message saying, “Happy birthday!” is basically saying “I have your phone number but I’d rather not talk to you.”

      That said, a text message, coupled with regular conversations and an awesome homemade song with a catchy riff? Winning! You always do it right, Deb. 😉

  5. What a beautiful tribute to your father. Most parents just want to spend time with their children. I know I do. That is the greatest gift my daughter can give to me.

    1. Maire:

      I’m not sure how beautiful it is. As I laid in bed last night, I thought of all the other things I could have written. Should have written. My dad is awesome in thitry-eleventeen hundred ways. But it came out as an apology. I know he wants to be together.

      1. I got a Nook Color (LOOOOOOOVE IT!), some new pants and socks, and the latest Harry Potter movie. My co-workers got me a level, paint roller, and construction pencils. I know those seem like crappy gifts, but I’m redoing my house this summer so they will be very handy.

        The best thing I got was a nice relaxing night at home with the fam. Not having to run around like a chicken with its head cut off was awesome.

  6. Enjoy both of them anytime you can. My dad’s been gone nearly 20 years. My mother’s still here, but her mind’s not. I visit her four times a week, but by the time I’m out of the driveway she has forgotten the visit.

    1. David, that is positively heartbreaking. And at the same time, it fills me with such gratitude. When I spoke with my father today he had already played table tennis, done a zillion errands, and told me all about his big birthday dinner plans.

      I hope he has many happy returns of the day.

      And he will if my mother has anything to say about it. 😉

  7. Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday dear Mr. Schuls… Happy Birthday toooooooo yooooouuuuuuu… Now make a wish!

    From Renee’s friend Melissa <3

    1. Thanks Meliss.

      I wonder if my dad would remember you…

      Dad, do you remember Melissa?

      We were really good friends in middle school?

      We were cheerleaders together in high school?

      And then we were in gym class together. A lot.

      Anyway, she’s wonderful.

      So if she tells you to be happy, you’d better do it. 😉

      1. For me, it’s not so much responsibility as it is finances. This year, I’ve been giving away virtual presents as well as real ones…what I wish I could do for someone.

  8. Oh, that’s such a sweet tribute, Renee. I always get my dad some Hallmark card that makes fun of aging. Seems like those are the only cards around, except for the really sappy ones in cursive, but I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with that. Maybe next time I’ll just write a blog post. It’s more personal, and those Hallmark cards are expensive. Wish your dad a happy birthday for me; he has a lot to be proud of.

    1. Thanks MarKap.

      My dad usually writes me a poem for my birthday. This year he actually wrote it but forgot to transpose it to the birthday card.

      So I received a blank birthday card.

      He did send it to me belatedly via email. Not the same.

      I hope this doesn’t feel cold.

  9. Happy Birthday to your dad, Renée (my dad is 74 too!).

    I know about the guilt involved with living far from your family…I lived at least 1000 miles away from my closest relatives (including my mom) for most of my adult life! You have to do what’s right for you, though.


    1. Wendy:

      I do feel guilty. Because while my parents do live away, they don’t live FAR away. But everyone is so busy. I hope we can all catch up very soon.

      PS: My dad will turn 75 next year on 12/12/12 — so I’m guessing we are going to put together a big ole thang for him.

      Unless the world ends.

      Because, you know, the Mayans said it is supposed to. 😉

  10. Happy Birthday Mr Schuls!!!!!! Although I have not seen you in 30 years, I still wanted to wish you a happy birthday!!!! My dad is 74 , and would want the exact same gift…. Happy Day in the words of my son…


  11. Wishing you a magnificently grand and happy birthday, Renée’s Dad, even if it comes in the simple form of being able to spend time with your family without much fanfare. Because that’s really about the best way to do it, isn’t it?

    Renée, this is a wonderful note to your Dad on his birthday. You make scratching the surface and revealing the infathomable depths at the same time look very easy.

  12. We lived overseas as expats for 15 years and loved the life, but hated being away from family. When we moved home, after a strange confluence of events I still can’t explain, we ended up living literally across the street from my wifes parents and it’s like this phase of our lives is making up for all those years apart.

    Now the inlaws have an (only) grand daughter to dote on and I’m old enough to get that part of the reason we’re so close geographically is to help out in their golden years.

    Life is strange and wonderful and I think if your Dad’s anything like my Dad your note hit the spot!

  13. Sweet Renee. I’m gonna have you write my birthday greeting to other people from now on. Although my mom might not understand why I’m talking about sweatpants so much.

  14. A very beautiful and tender post. I loved it. Of course, as a father of daughters, I was reading this from the opposite perspective. Fortunately, mine are still very young and at home, so they can sit on my lap every day. But I know that will change. 🙂

  15. Love your letter written at the beginning of his day, and your call towards the end of the day. The right bread is the best part of a sandwich.
    The reason I even started blogging is my cousin put out a request for us to send her mother, my aunt, a special birthday message back in 2010. So, one Sunday afternoon, I went to wp, and posted one of my first posts. I had been reticent about blogging…being out there. But then, her request seemed to be the perfect invitation to start. …they were my first views and comments. And I was so proud to proclaim my love and her influence on me. Yes, what a special letter this is posted on the internet.

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