Friday, November 30, 2012

A birthday card for Papa

He never made a big deal of his birthday.  If anything, it was an excuse to throw an informal party; a reason to gather friends around the table for a meal of enchiladas or chimichangas; an occasion to savor raspberry pie smothered in ice cream, to play card games, to sit and tell stories and laugh over tea and popcorn. 

All he ever wanted for a gift was a handwritten card.  

And now, tomorrow marks five birthdays absent of him.  But, oh.  Not of his presence. 

I see, with time, that he is all around me.  He is inextricably woven with me, with the beginnings of my story.  My history is painted with many colorful strokes of his brush.  I carry him in my heart as I walk the present and enter the future without him by my side.  I would not exist without him.

My Papa.

I see his fingerprints across my unfinished canvas as I walk the halls of the nursing home I visit weekly, as I sit in rooms and ask questions and listen to stories and laugh his laugh and feel his pleasure of loving people coursing through my veins.  When I open my eyes and peek out beyond my own skin and touch soft translucent arms and kiss the tops of white crowned heads, I feel him.  I am here, in these halls and these rooms, because he opened the door years ago and led me in.  He showed me not to be afraid of failing bodies, to see past to the nuggets of gold.  

I remember well the small girl, trailing behind her Papa through the hallways of other nursing homes.  Sitting in dimly lit hospital-style rooms with him, engrossed in conversation as food fell from an old friend’s mouth while he chewed and talked.  Pretending to see, with him, the flowers and birds and mountains outside a window that looked across to another room, as this old man talked of sights that weren’t there, except in his mind.  Greeting the older woman who sat at a bench near the front door, always, her bags packed and waiting for her ride.  Singing Christmas carols in a room filled with beautiful white heads, wheelchairs and walkers, sharing cocoa and frosted sugar cookies and the joy of the season. 

This, sweet Papa of mine, is a piece of your legacy.  
And this is my card to you, lifted to heaven. 
I celebrate you.  
Happy birthday, with all my love.



  1. Oh my goodnness, friend, your words to your strong, tender, loving, serving Papa...what a tribute, what a gift to us, your very blessed readers. You have brought my tears flowing. Amber, your words cut right to your papa's life in you. Honestly, I could sob long at the beauty you've painted in so few words. His example that you live out, sitting with the forgotten, those with failing bodies -- without fear -- seeing them as valuable people with dreams and lives and tender memories. Your memories here of your father and your telling of his imprint on this area of your life are so unbelievably beautiful. Thank you, love.

    1. Ash, I think you're the one person who consistently reads my writing and makes me feel heard... that is such a sweet gift. Thank you, again, dear friend. Thank you for sharing your response to this, all your emotions and insights. My Papa was and still is a precious soul, and I'm so grateful to have had him in my life.

  2. Replies
    1. I'm speechless, too. Many thanks to you, P.

  3. So beautifully written, sweet girl. Your Papa was a very special person in all of our lives. You captured the essence of who he was so clearly. We miss him.


    1. Thank you, sweet Mom. He certainly was so special and will always hold a special place in our hearts. I am so incredibly grateful to still have you in my life - and for all the many intricate ways you are woven in my heart and history. I love you dearly.