Monday, January 5, 2009

December 29

December 29 was my father’s birthday. If I’d been writing this blog on that day, I would have posted this then. But I’m a believer in the significance of timing. New Year’s Day is not just January first, but the beginning of something entirely fresh and untouched. An auspicious day for starting new ventures. It was important to me to begin on January 1.

But, just as every new venture is built on what came before, so is the past relevant here. So, I’m posting this one week later.

Last Monday, the 29th, my mother reminded me via instant messenger from Tucson that it was my father’s 70th birthday. No, I’m not a negligent daughter who forgot to send a card, failed to find a gift, or needed to be reminded to make that birthday phone call. My father, John Theodore Mize – Ted, to absolutely everyone – died in 1969, when I was three years old. Next October will be the 40 year anniversary of the F-4 plane crash that took his life. 2011 will be his 50th Air Force Academy class reunion. But Ted is forever 30, knowing nothing of these things.

In an interesting parallel, the following day Misty Evans, the writer, mentioned to me that her 10 year-old son announced at dinner that he wanted to be a fighter pilot. So she told him the story of my dad. (The first essay in Wyo Trucks is “Inheritances,” which tells this story.) About the great responsibility someone like that takes on. The grave and terrible risk of it all.

I wonder, if my father could have a do-over, what he’d choose? He wanted to fly. He wanted to leave his small town in North Carolina and be something more. More than his mother who finished 5th grade and raised her younger sister and then her sons and a passel of nieces and nephews. More than his father who finished 7th grade and worked in the furniture factory. The Air Force Academy lifted him up and out, into the sky. And dashed him to the ground again. Would he have traded that time in the sky for all the birthdays and anniversaries?

Somehow, though I never knew him, I think he’d say he got the better deal.

1 comment:

  1. As you know, I believe that your father lives on, with particular brilliance, in the essential ways that he formed who you (and your mother) are. And I know for certain that he would be bursting with pride in the woman you have become.

    Happy birthday, sir.


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