The Popster turns another year older today. I don't think he's very sensitive about his age, so I'll go ahead and tell you that the particular age he's turning is old, old, very old. If I'm doing the math correctly, it's sixty-four, which is not such a bad age to be if you're a Beatles fan, but I'm not sure the Popster is (and yet I still find it in my heart to love him. So generous of me.)
Friends of the blog may have noticed that the birthdays of our young folk are events, causes for gatherings and cakes and pictures and presents and stuff. Sometimes that even happens for the not-so-young folks, but if there's a birthday in our family that gets neglected, it's the Popster's (and also Will's which is in two days, but he's just an in-law, so does it really even matter?). Part of the problem with the Popster is that he inconveniently has all his holidays in the summertime. Father's Day was just a few weeks ago (and I nearly always see him for Father's Day), and his anniversary (and my moma's obviously) was last Thursday, so we all spend the better parts of June and July trying to figure out multiple gifts for him, and it's a task. He's not the easiest man for which to shop (constructing sentences to avoid ending them in prepositions is so obnoxious). Plus it's hot in July which brings on lethargy. Plus we've just never made a habit of gathering for his birthday, and in my heart it's because he really doesn't care about making a big deal, but I'm rapidly becoming riddled with guilt as I type out our neglect of him. Sorry, Popster. I did at least give you your present already. That's love, right?
Before I mire myself in guilt any more (or make myself look any worse in your eyes with my bad daughtering), let me tell you my five favorite things about the Popster, so you can love him just as much as I do.
5. The Popster is a fixer. When he bought our new Kentucky home, it was old and neglected and the second floor was almost all open attic space, but my dad (with my moma's help) did all sorts of updating and building of upstairs rooms, and now it's a lovely home. He did all the work himself--except maybe the plumbing. He really doesn't like plumbing. He can also fix cars and give advice about washing machine hot-wiring over the phone. He's a careful and precise sort of guy in most ways, which makes him that much better at fixing things--or taking such good care of his stuff that it doesn't require fixing. I think he's probably where I got my own handiness. We are just two fixers fixing things, the Popster and I.
4. He doesn't show much emotion, does he? Okay, I have to explain that sentence with a story: a few years ago, the Popster was making some large purchase. I can't remember what it was now because that's not the funny part of the story. Maybe it was a boat or a lawn mower or a four-wheeler or something--the Popster likes vehicles. Anyway it was the sort of purchase that required the assistance of a salesman and some waiting around and talking. So the Popster had put in a significant amount of time with the little salesman but had not formed the sort of attachment that the salesman clearly would have liked. The Popster didn't want to trade secrets or braid hair or become facebook friends. He was keeping things professional. At some point during the sales transaction, the little salesman asked the Popster for his name for some sort of official form. My dad's last name is unusual and difficult to spell phonetically, so instead of saying his name, he showed him his checkbook cover which has his full name printed on it. The Popster's first name is David (though like three of his kids, he doesn't go by his first name), but though the little salesman got his name written down correctly, in further conversation he referred to my dad as Dale. The Popster chose not to correct him because it just didn't matter to him. Anyway, after using every trick in his little salesman arsenal, he still hadn't secured a long-term offer of friendship by the end of the sales transaction, so his parting words to the Popster were "You don't show much emotion, do you, Dale?" My dad answered with a simple "no" and departed forever robbing the little salesman of the joy of winning him over. We love this story in our family. At first glance, the Popster is the strong, silent type. In our family of emotionally overwrought, obnoxiously loud people, he's a man of few words, often solemn, and soft-spoken. Dale doesn't show much emotion, and sometimes that's just the sort of calming presence we need.
3. But the Popster is also witty and entertaining when he wants to be. It's entirely possible that he's funnier than me. He definitely has a higher funny comment to normal comment ratio. I think this is the secret to his comedic genius. My approach, by which I mean the nature of my psychosis, is to spew words nonstop. I throw every remotely amusing thought I have up against the wall to see what sticks. As a result, I speak volumes of unfunny things. But the Popster is more patient and subtle and in control of his tongue than I'll ever be, so he doesn't speak every thought in his head. But when he does speak: hilarity. And since, as faithful readers well know, I live for comedy, it's not wonder I'm the Popster's girl--even when he's making me the butt of his wit.
2. I've told my imaginary readers the story of how the Popster coined the term Handful to refer to his grandchildren after Thumb was born. What may or may not have come across in that story is that my dad is bursting with pride over his five grandkiddos. Before Pointer was born, I knew exactly the sort of Nana that my moma would become--it's very similar to the sort of moma she's always been except with more spoiling. I didn't know then about the Popster. He's cuddlier than he seems, but I didn't really see him as a baby guy or even really a little kid guy. He's spent the past twelve years showing me how wrong I was. He loves his Handful with intensity, a slavish devotion, and complete delight. He is calm and patient with them, and they are so drawn to their Popa as a result. He is a softer, sweeter man because they exist.
1. Last year I named my moma's decision to marry the Popster as my second favorite thing about her. And while the things I said about them as a couple and their choice to make our family bear repeating, the more amazing part of their story is him choosing us. We were not at our charming, most lovable best when the Popster walked into our lives. The four of us ranged in age from nine to sixteen. We were loud and ate a lot and sassed our mother and were all suffering more than we would admit from that whole broken home thing in ways from which we wouldn't recover for years. We were, in every quantifiable way, a bad bet, and even with the way that I idolize my moma, I'm not sure her many fine qualities could overcome all of our scary, needy ones. Except that he did choose us, all of us. And if he didn't love us all from the word go, then he at least faked it until he felt it, and he's spent the past twenty-one years being our dad in every single way that matters. I know some great dads who have fallen in love with their children as tiny newborns, who've raised them and taught them and nurtured them through their entire lives, and it takes a good man to do that. But men like my dad, who walk into the lives of half-grown, messed-up kids and change their world just by loving them and loving their moma . . . well, imaginary reader, I hope you'll understand why I think they're in a whole other class of fine men.
Happy Birthday to the best man I know. I don't say it nearly enough but thank you for for making my moma the happiest she's ever been, for seeing how much we needed you, and for completing our family.