Monday, May 26, 2014

How I hope they serve birthday cake in heaven.

My mom can cook. I mean really. She is known for her desserts and if you ask anyone in North Mississippi about coconut pies, they will send you straight to Mama's house.

When the triplets were little and their Dad was in the throes of medical training, I would load our van and the kids and I would head to Mississippi for a week or so. After 12 hours in the van, we would cross the Mississippi River into Memphis and I would roll every single window down. Never mind that I was hungry for the smell of red dirt and magnolias, honeysuckle and pine trees, I needed to entertain three amazing but restless little travelers in the back seats.

Me: "Sniff, sniff, sniff. I think I smell them. What do you think?"

Claire: "It's Grammie's pies. She's cooking for us, Mama!"

Me: "What kind??"

Benjamin, laughing and kicking in his car seat: "Chocolate -- she knows it is your favorite!"

Mason: "Coconut, Mama!! And I'm hungry NOW!"

And we would sniff and guess until we had convinced ourselves we absolutely could indeed smell those pies baking just for us!! And the two hours of  anticipation was never disappointed. We would pull into Mama's house to find more than one pie waiting to greet us.

But as special as Mama's pies are -- as special as her cooking is and always has been -- there was one holiday growing up that only a store-bought bakery cake would do. There was only one holiday (well actually five in our family) that we didn't want her to cook and that "holiday" was our birthdays!

The very smell of a sweeter than sweet rose made out of butter cream icing atop a white cake (never marble, chocolate or heaven forbid cream-filled!) coupled with vanilla ice cream takes me right back to my childhood. It is the very essence of birthday for me. And my darling family blesses my heart every year to ensure I have a beautiful yummy memory-filling cake to celebrate my day.

My most recent birthday hubby and kiddos do such a wonderful job making me feel special!

But once upon a time, I would barely finish my own birthday cake before we brought another into the house to celebrate my Daddy's birth. Our big days were one week apart and we prided ourselves in savoring the last bites of my cake just in time to make room for his! Oh it was a glorious two week ritual of celebration and love that just happens to smell like butter cream icing.

Tomorrow would be my dear Dad's 70th birthday. But instead it will be the 20th one that we have had to spend without him. Oh, I am certain the party in heaven is sweet. I am sure it is complete with butter cream icing and vanilla ice-cream. But I miss him. I miss celebrating together. I miss sharing our cakes. I miss...every single thing about him.

Quite a few years back...before I had brothers even.

And so today, as I really (really really) wanted to wallow around in some self-pity, I was instead instantly reminded that he would frown on that. He would not want me to wallow. So I started a list of all things I learned from that amazing man and from having to spend all these birthdays apart:

1. I don't take life for granted. I know this lesson was enormous when three years after my Dad died the triplets were born. I learned the lesson that no matter what obstacles life brings us, we are to celebrate their LIFE. Thank you, Dad.

2. I don't take family for granted.  My dad hated spending the night away from home. He treasured us as his family and preferred driving late into the night after having left early early in the morning when his job demanded it, to sleeping in a hotel on the road away from us. He taught me to savor our family time. He taught me to prioritize time with my husband and our children. He lived the value he placed on us. Thank you, Dad.

He showed us in every way that we were his favorite people on the planet. Unconditionally.

3. I tell people how I feel about them. Not one of us is promised tomorrow. I am going to hug you hello and good-bye and maybe 15 times in the middle. I am going to say "I love you" and "I like you" and "I am so glad we are friends." I don't want you to be uncomfortable but instead of stopping I'll just do it more often to increase your comfort (ask my friends in Minnesota.)! I don't know what tomorrow has in store, I need you to know I love you today. Thank you, Dad.

4. I tell stories. Oh goodness, I wish my sweet Dad had talked more about his childhood, about my grandmother and about his siblings. I want more and more and more but he wasn't the story teller. But I am and I tell my children story after story after story. They know so much about you, Dad. They can tell the stories themselves and often express how hard it is for them to remember they never actually met you on earth because they feel so close to you. I think I have accomplished my mission. But I won't stop -- there are new grands joining this family and I'll educate them too. I promise, Dad.

Only a year before he died...making family memories together at Opryland! 

5.  I learned to make my marriage a priority. Oh, Daddy, I remember your stays in the hospital. I remember how no matter how often I begged to take a turn staying overnight, it was Mama you wanted by your side. I remember the grace you showed sending her home to rest during the day but the need you had to have her back and by your side as soon as possible. Your love taught me so much. Wade and I both thank you, Dad.

6. I learned that laughter is often the best medicine. You were emotional the night Wade and I came in to show off my engagement ring. You had given him permission to ask. You and Mom had gone on to bed. I climbed right into your bed (that wasn't new, was it? I often did that after dates...) to tell you all about it. Wade shyly followed me into the room and you looked up at him and said, "Well son, you'll have to marry her now. You've seen my in my underwear." We all laughed and laughed. And still do. I  am grateful God gave us our Mason to echo your laugh in your absence. I am so thankful.

He wasn't ready to "give me away" but he had to...Wade had seen him in his underwear after all! :)

7. I learned that my words can encourage and bless. You called me your "little angel" for as long as I can remember. You showered me with the belief that I was a God-given gift and the blessing those descriptions placed on me and my life is something I can not even put into words. I pray that I have passed it down to your grandkids. I pray that they know what a gift they are. Thank you, Daddy, for loving me unconditionally, and always always seeing the best in me.

I could go on and on and on. On the days when I get this parenting thing right -- and that is not everyday but I try -- I am modeling what you taught me. I am loving these four with all that I have; I am searching for memory-making opportunities; I am remembering to be silly sometimes; and I am savoring birthday cake bought from a store and served with vanilla ice cream.

I love you, Daddy. Happy birthday in heaven.

Carol - The Blessings Counter