A Life Lesson from My Dad, On His Birthday

Today, my dad would’ve turned 75.  His birthday was always one of my favorites to celebrate, other than my own.  Since it fell so close to Thanksgiving, we would spend the long weekend in the city (of New York) celebrating with family.  The whole family would stay at a hotel uptown, see Broadway shows and eat fancy dinners before closing down the hotel lobby bar.  

Of course, things didn’t always go according to plan.  For example, one time when we stayed at the Plaza, I came down with the flu and watched a My So-Called Life marathon on tv while everyone else went ice skating at Rockefeller Center.

It’s funny how we tend to look back at things with rose-colored glasses.  Not so great times become great in hindsight.  “Remember the time you got the flu at the Plaza?” Now, it’s a STORY.  

Our experience in the Cotswolds will be no different.  Yes, it’s wonderful, but this is real life, and real life isn’t always the romantic world we see in movies and on social media.  Even on my Instagram, where I vow to keep it real and unfiltered, you’re much more likely to see our ups than downs.  And yet, it’s already happening, the rosy haze.  Here are some examples.

Even though our dog was incredibly well-behaved, bringing him here was stressful.  While overall Abraxos did great, there were some nail-biting moments.  He threw up in the middle of the airport terminal after riding an elevator for the first time.  In the boarding area, he began circling and sniffing (dog owners, you know exactly what this means!).  With cat-like reflexes, Steven managed to catch what would have been a massive mess using a wee-wee pad.

When we finally picked up our rental car, the rental company representative came running over, exclaiming, “Do you have a dog in the car?!” before peering into the passenger’s seat where our dog was sitting in plain sight.  Unbeknownst to us, we weren’t allowed to have pets in the car!  And then, by some divine intervention, his next words were, “Oh sorry, that’s a person.”  What?!  

After profusely sweating over the flight and car rental situations, I spent the next hour and a half gripping onto the seat and shouting at Steven that he was driving too far to the left.  In the UK, people drive on the right side of the road from the right side of the car.  As an American used to driving from the left, it’s difficult to gauge how far over the car is.  I was panicked the whole entire ride, and Steven was annoyed at me.  “I’m not too close to the left! Stop shouting at me!”  

We made it all the way to a country road before “Pop!”  

“Did you just blow the tire?” I asked in a shouty voice.  The left tire, I silently added with only the slightest bit of petty satisfaction.  

“No,” Steven denied before the car started driving in a way that left no doubt he did, in fact, blow a tire.  

We pulled over in the middle of nowhere.  While Steven attempted to change the tire, which stubbornly refused to come off, I took our overtired kids and dog on a walk.  My daughter was stressed she was missing her virtual school check-in.  My son was adamant I collect every leaf on the ground.  This being Autumn, I can only tell you this game got old fast.  Everyone was exhausted, hungry and at their wit’s end.  

Within an inch of losing my patience, I prayed for help.  I’m not kidding.  I legitimately went into prayer mode and asked for help from the Universe, God, guardian angels, anyone who would listen.  After saying my prayer, I walked the dog and kids back to where Steven was working on the tire, which is when I saw Justin.

Justin happened to be biking by, and he also happened to be good friends with a mechanic down the road.  Within half an hour, we had the spare tire on and an order in for a replacement.  In total, we lost an hour, and let me tell you, that hour sucked, but a few days later, we were laughing about it.  Now, it’s a STORY.

Back to my dad.  He was impossible to shop for because with few exceptions, anything we bought for him would collect dust.  But my dad always, always wanted his birthday weekend.  It wasn’t about the attention, or the shows, or the fancy dinners.  It was about the experience of having his whole family together, knowing we were making memories that would last a lifetime.

Maybe your Thanksgiving won’t be how you planned.  Ours won’t be.  We were supposed to head into the city (of London) and pay homage to my dad by having the kind of weekend we used to in New York City.  Now we’ll likely order a cooked turkey from the local farm shop (our oven here won’t fit a turkey) and make some sides.  Maybe I’ll throw together a pumpkin pie.  It will be a Thanksgiving unlike any other we’ve had, which means it will be one we’ll never forget.  And my dad would have said, “That’s what it’s all about.”  

Happy birthday Dad.

10 thoughts on “A Life Lesson from My Dad, On His Birthday”

  1. Jenny Chmieleski

    That made me teary, Jen. Your dad always had a twinkle in his eye, mischief beneath, and what seemed like a gentle acceptance for everyone he met, flaws and all.

  2. Remembering your dad on his birthday today.. So glad we got to know him even if it was such a short time. We have sweet memories of his 70th when we were all in the city that year. Hope Thanksgiving gives you much to be thankful for. We miss you and love you. Nancy

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