On My Dad’s Birthday

My dad would have been 92 today.

At the dawn of the Great Depression, he was a toddler. By the time he was my son’s age, his father was long gone and he was pushing a broom at a gas station at night to help his mother feed their family. He went on to provide for eight kids of his own. When he passed, in 2005, he and my mom had been married for 55 years.

Photo by Jen Conway

Photo by Jen Conway

I often think about how much he would have loved the people closest to me and how happy he would be to spend time with them. As I think about them, this morning, I realize that I see him in all of them.

They are people with enormous hearts. They’re guided by a clear sense of right and wrong. They are playful and light-hearted. They love to kid around, but deep down they are sincere and trustworthy. They have conviction. They are authentic - when they walk into a room it becomes a different place. And, they love me. They regard me differently than others do.

The customary thing to say is that I miss him. But, the truth is that he’s here.

Today, I’ll celebrate him through the people in my life who carry his spirit. I’ll let them know they’re important to me. And maybe, at some point, I’ll scratch my chin with a potato chip, just like he would when he was in his recliner, watching M.A.S.H, or Big Jake.

Happy Birthday, Pop. I love you.

On Sadness

Over the past several months, I’ve spent time evaluating my relationship with sadness. Because I know it’s impossible to truly know joy without knowing the opposing force that gives it its meaning, the time had come for me to open the box from which the sorrows I tucked away have always spilled.

It had become painfully obvious that, because I hadn’t truly mourned my losses or properly grieved, the lingering sorrow was seeping out and contaminating my life. It silenced my laughter and paralyzed the part of me that just wants to dance.

Photo by Jen Conway

Photo by Jen Conway

By giving myself permission to be sad and ceasing to avoid the grief and sorrow, I’ve learned that it’s not the sadness that’s painful. It’s my resistance to it. And, because I stepped onto this path, I’ve begun to experience happiness and love in a way that was never before possible for me.

I keep this object, the Weeping Buddha, close by to remind me of the decision I made. I’m done swallowing tears. 

On the Death of Anthony Bourdain

A couple years ago, my son gave me a cookbook. We’d been out shopping and had seen it a couple times. He knew I wanted it. It was one of those times when you buy the gift so they can give it to you. In truth, you’re doing something for them.

Hardbound and illustrated by Ralph Steadman, longtime collaborator of Hunter Thompson, it was a really cool book to have around. And, it used to evoke joyful memories for me, until a couple days ago.    

“Appetites” was written by Anthony Bourdain. Now, it just reminds me of suicide. More precisely, it reminds me of the deep and profound sadness that selfishness can engender.

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