Weather lore has it that back in the early days of the Rose Parade, officials made a pact with the churches that if January 1st ever fell on a Sunday, they would move the parade to the 2nd so that no one would skip out on church service…in exchange for a sunny parade day. The “contract” must have been somewhat enforced because since 1890, it has rained only about 9 times on the day of the parade. This year, my parents are visiting me specifically at this time to attend the parade as a celebration of a huge milestone for our family: my dad’s 70th birthday.
So you can imagine the anxiety has been rather high for me with our recent spouts of heavy rain all leading up to now. I was still checking the forecast while on my way to the airport. Heck, if I’d known where to go I would have gone to renogotiate that deal for a sunny parade day myself! And if a hundred anti-rain dances had helped, I would have gladly done a thousand. But no need, because as you can see in these photos, we had beautiful weather both on New Year’s Eve as people began claiming their seats along the parade route…
and on New Year’s Day as the floats, bands, and horses began their 9km march down Colorado Boulevard (part of the iconic Route 66)…
Now, about that magic number 70. We tell him it’s the new 40, and with his new meds working and his appetite back, leading to revived spirits, he might as well be 30. Which makes me a mere child…and that’s fine by me, because to acknowledge the fact that he’s 70 is to also admit that I’m no longer 21. Aging is not graceful, not because of the physical changes (ok, I’m lying, it’s totally about vanity) but because of the realization that time is non-negotiable. The irony of rushing to arrive at an age where you finally find confidence in who you are is the futile effort in slowing time down so that you could prolong the relationship you now have with your parents as an adult, free of angst from navigating the muddy waters of parent-child boundaries.
But who am I kidding, perhaps on my father’s 100th birthday I would still feel like an overprotected 20-something child waiting for him to change the windshield wipers on my car while visiting me at law school. Or the kid he held in his arms while tracing the shape of the United States on a map of the world to show me the distance between Vietnam and our new home. I do not know why some of these memories remain so vivid to me still, but sometimes I do wonder if it wasn’t in that moment that the seed was planted within me to chase all those countries we saw on that map so many years ago.
Much has been said about the special relationship between a girl and her father, in any culture, and I believe my sisters would agree when I say that each of us has an unique one with our father. Perhaps for someone who can sometimes overshare in a forum as public as a blog, I probably have the quietest relationship with him out of the three girls. I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve; it is guarded like the Hope Diamond. I keep emotions in check lest I look human. But I think unspoken love has a long tradition in the paternal side of my family…at least till my generation. We are all mellowing out, cousins and all, and I am happy to see my uncles and aunts also reaching out to show the love that’s always been bubbling just under the surface. It is entirely possible to be both stoic and sentient.
So in spite of all the things my shrink told me I’m doing that are emotionally stifling (she, btw, shockingly does not believe in retail therapy as a fix!), the blog entries here that tell stories about my family have always been an open love letter to my parents. I’m still not so good about telling people often enough that I care about them, but today, to my father on his 70th birthday, I’d like say that if I don’t tell him I love him enough, it is not for lack of it. There is no word, in any language, that could describe the depth of my feelings for my parents. They may not want to jump off cliffs like I do, but they’ve taught me courage. They may find stability in roots that I shun, but they’ve taught me commitment. They may see way more good in people than I do, but they’ve taught me compassion.
I don’t know if it’s ever possible to repay your parents for the life they give you. And it’s unlikely I’ll ever know the love of my own child (do cats count?). But perhaps in these few words today my dad can take comfort in knowing that all of his children, in our own ways, recognize his sacrifices and that we love him unconditionally. Happy birthday, daddy.