On a Dad and his Birthday

        I wake up early in the morning. There is something that I am not supposed to forget, but I can’t remember what it is! All I know is that it’s important.

I get up and wrap my sky-blue, winter bathrobe around my body. It’s June but it is still cold, with temperatures in the high fifties. Slippers protect my feet from the cold floor, and I do my early morning shuffle to the kitchen to make coffee. 

As I catch sight of my reflection, I sigh and smile as I think about the inevitability of aging. What did one husband say to his wife as she was looking into the mirror sighing at her aging self? “Don’t believe everything you see!” 

And then I remember: Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday! How could I forget? I blame my inability to remember to send cards on not being raised on Hallmark. In Pakistan, you made your cards. You didn’t go to the store and shop among the thousands. And Hallmark was never around to remind you of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, your dad’s birthday.

But it’s Dad’s birthday and a warm feeling comes over me. My dad has always been a strength in my life. Early memories flood my mind: My dad at his large, messy desk, head bent in concentration; driving our trusty Landrover over precarious roads in Pakistan; gregarious – laughing with friends and telling jokes; on his knees every day before his Maker.

I am re-reading my mom’s book, and with that comes another look at my dad’s life beyond my own memories. Falling in love with my mom, heading to Pakistan for the first time, building a flush toilet and a shower system at one of their first houses in Pakistan, translating the Bible into Sindhi. They speak of an accomplished man with a heart for God and a stubborn will to continue in the hard places. No wonder my mom and I both reacted when a nurse who couldn’t have been more than 22 years old called him “Hon.” My dad isn’t a “Hon.” He is a man who knows three languages; has flown around the world numerous times;has taken trips to places the nurse couldn’t even pronounce. Sorry honey – you can’t call him ‘hon’ on my watch. My dad, gracious man that he is, would have been mortified if we had said anything. And so we didn’t.

Thinking of my dad provides solid memories in an ever changing world. The older I get, the more important these memories become. For Dad is facing what every human faces: He is getting older. He celbrates his 89th birthday and, though I still see him as strong, he is not as strong as he once was.

But that’s his body. Age may change the outside, but the inside belongs to God alone. Age may take his earthly body, but it will never take his soul. That’s the legacy he lives, that will be the legacy he leaves.

And so I remember and I smile. Happy Birthday Dad! I love you to the moon and back.

5 thoughts on “On a Dad and his Birthday

  1. Your Dad really doesn’t look that much older to me than when I knew him in Pakistan. Although we were with different missions we knew your Dad and since I worked in Shikarpur Hosp 2 different times so your people could go to your annual conference I feel that I know your family because I lived in your environment. The Sind was a whole different culture than Bach Hosp. Happy Birthday to your Dad and tell him I personally think he looks as young as he did when he lived in Pakistan!!


  2. April of l956 — Murree, Pakistan. We met your Mom and Dad for the first time — we were the newcomers and we received a royal welcome. Ralph is one great guy — I could tell many stories about him, but suffice it to say – “take good care of yourself, do what your “handlers” tell you, and when God is ready for you, He will call you to worship at His Throne. And when we all GET HERE, what a great reunion we will have. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RALPH.


  3. Marilyn, again I write through tears, nostalgic tears, happy tears, grateful tears. I tell my brother Ralph and many others that since I would have only one brother, I’m so glad it turned out to be him. As Mary Wilder said, he’s a DEAR. About aging (I speak as an older sister): this has become a favorite verse–“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day”. PTL Now I’ll greet Ralph on Facebook.
    A blessed Lord’s Day from Aunt Ruth and Uncle Russ.


  4. Marilyn Dear – this is a great tribute to a great man! He is my Pakistan colleague and friend – not my Dad, but I consider him a DEAR man! The photos are delightful, too, including your Mom. I’m glad to see that Ralph uses a trekking pole. They are so much more useful than a cane! Do pass on my greetings, love and best wishes. mary


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