It’s the one day a year I drink a cup of coffee and try to remember what his laugh sounds like.
I’m a tea drinker, and probably the only person on Earth that doesn’t stop by at Starbucks in the morning for a cup of coffee, but thought it might help jog the memory.
I don’t have it.
There’s evidence of it in plenty of Kodak moments and Polaroids, and I can picture it in my head. But I can’t hear it. I think it’s one of things I miss most about him. I miss hearing him crack up at one of my jokes, or at my awesome dance moves.
I can’t remember what his laugh sounds like. That’s sort of an important thing to someone like me.
I’m lucky though I still know what his voice sounds like. I turn to my 2004 Panasonic cordless phone answering machine from Costco. It has 11 messages, 9 are from him. Eight of them are calling to say hi, the ninth one is him calling from the hospital asking me when I’d be showing up. I hear the messages over and over again just trying to get his voice to stay in the room and maybe it will jog my memory to the sound of his voice when he laughed and how it changed.
No such luck today.
But I still remember what he smelled like. I have his last two bottles of Jovan Musk aftershave. I open them up in the morning and after I put the kids to sleep. Just sat there in the closet surrounded by all his white shirts, pants, and polos, smelling the aftershave.
But no laughter.
I still remember what was close to his heart. I have the black Samsonite work briefcase he carried with him at all times — the one I thought carried contracts, shipping orders and important payroll and tax papers for the poultry shop. We realized after his passing that it wasn’t filled with those things, but with the birthday cards and Father’s Day Cards we had given him throughout the years. But he had no pictures of himself in there.
So I took to the 1970s and 80s photo albums in the closet and checked out my dad in his prime. I searched my computer for some of my favorite pics. The ones with Hawaiian shirts. The ones of my childhood. The ones where I can feel him cracking up. And it makes me remember of an instance where he cracked up so hard he cried. Unfortunately I had no camera then. There were a few instances like that, but this one in particular happened in Guatemala and it involved a water slide.
Water slides do that sort of thing to you. They bring out the smile, the laughter and the fun. They bring out your inner pirate. They juice up your existence.
Doesn’t matter what age, that water raft spinning and swirling, swooshing and splashing you has that you-crack-me-up effect. Maybe it’s the fast-paced slide or the not knowing when a wave is going to splash you, or perhaps it was the height of the slope we swooshed down on, maybe it was a combination of all those things and the fact that my cousin was freaking out that made us laugh.
Whatever it was that was one of the times my dad laughed so hard he cried. That Guatemalan Raging Waters experience was memorable and I was glad to have been part of that. I was glad to have been part of one of his stories that begins with ‘you remember the time we …’
It was a good laugh. It had to be because I’ve spent all day trying to hear it.
It was important to try to hear it today because he would have been 66 years old today.
But even though I may not have seen it on videos, because he was always the cinematographer of the family back when VHS existed, always behind the scenes, I was still able to find glimpses of his laughter through old family pictures.
So I go to bed feeling a little better.
Happy birthday, Dad. I miss you. Hope you liked your cake this year. I made it from scratch. German Chocolate. I had a big piece.