You would have been 65 today and you probably would have hated every minute of it. You had enough trouble turning 45 and going through your midlife crisis of wanting a pot belly pig so I’m guessing 65 would have been awful. You enjoyed life too much to be slowed down by old age. Happy birthday anyway. It would have been wonderful to see what it looked like on you. I would imagine you still would have had your mustache, but your hair would have been a salt and pepper grey. You would probably still don your usual jeans and Spear Pool t-shirts. And that toothpick that always hung off your lips.
It will be twenty years this New Year’s Eve since you’ve been gone. There are days that it seems like yesterday. And other days it seems as though you never existed. I hate those days. I hate that time has caused fading, but those days that it still hurts? I revel in them. It’s dark and twisted, but hurting reminds that you were actually here.
I was thinking the other day about what I would even write today. It’s always hard to not become a mess of words and emotions whenever I talk about you, but all I could think of was this single Saturday morning. I had to be about eight or nine. I woke up and knew it was early, but I couldn’t sleep anymore. It was Saturday morning which meant you would be taking me to the stables to ride. I threw my legs over the side of the bed and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. Pulled my jeans on, an old T-shirt and grabbed my boots. I tip-toed down the hallway and out into the kitchen. The house was quiet and everyone else was still asleep. I knew exactly where you would be. After I pulled my boots on, I opened the door to the garage and there you were. KNIX playing, washing your truck. You looked up and smiled seeing me already dressed and ready to go. You told me to wait just a few minutes and you would be ready as well.
On the way we would talk about everything and anything – conversations broken up with lyrics to Garth Brooks. We often talked about our future plans of buying a horse. You promised me for my twelfth birthday. At the ranch you would help me pull the horse out and brush him down. You would grab the saddle from the tack room because it was too heavy for me to lift and you would watch me tighten the cinch to make sure I had it done right. And you would stand there at the arena and watch. You never looked away. You sat on the bleachers and you would watch me for the full hour as I had my lesson. I’ll never forget that. It was my time with you – undivided attention and all. I don’t think I realized what a gift that was until I got older and had kids of my own.
We would climb back into your truck for the ride home. I would smell of dirt, alfalfa and manure and you would tease me. We would stop at McDonald’s like we always did and you were always shocked I always ordered two cheeseburgers and finished both. As I sat sipping my milkshake, you called me Tex. I can’t remember if an explanation came with it, but I remember telling you that you also needed a nickname. We decided on Mex. You owned a pool company and built them for a living. Being in the sun came with the job and people often teased you that you were so tan. It was fitting with your humor. And that was that. Mex and Tex. It was you. It was you and me.
It is one of the few days of my childhood that I remember like it was yesterday. I hate to admit to myself that a lot of them have faded over the years, but a few remain. And those are the ones I tell my kids about. You are a part of conversation more often than not and for that I am so incredibly grateful. I’m sure you know, but Tanner seems to have this unexplainable connection with you that I thank God for everyday. He speaks as if he knows you and it makes it hurts a little less when I realize that you haven’t been around to see me have children. Or to hold them and teach them.
I could go on and on, Dad. About how unfair it is that you haven’t been here. About how everyone lied to me – time doesn’t help. It still hurts just as much as it did back then, but I would rather have ten years with you then none. Thank you for those ten years.
Happy Birthday, Mex. I love you.