We took my mom’s car that night for one reason–it was clean. My dad probably didn’t have time to clean all of the loose pork rinds and empty fast-food coffee cups out of the passenger seat of his vehicle in a manner befitting of an impromptu father-daughter movie date. He looked different to me as he sat behind the wheel of a low-profile sedan, but he was a good driver, and we were soon on our way.
Before we left the city limits–we went across the state line to Poplar Bluff to go to movies–he pulled over, parking next to a building where he frequently worked.
“Stay right here,” he said, stepping out of the car. He walked over to a rose bush, pulled out his pocket knife, and clipped a single rose that he brought back to me. I put it behind my ear, grinning. What eleven-year-old girl wouldn’t love that?
Roses have always had significant meaning for me. I was born on Valentine’s Day. I can’t help but make the connection, even if I’ve been shaking my head for a good many years (now) about sharing my day with that holiday. However, there was something I could depend on every year from my dad.
Every year, on my birthday, he sent me a single red rose in a vase.
Every year, he also did something else that became a tradition. He would call and sing. Sure, you’re probably thinking, “Duh. That’s, like, everyone’s tradition.”
Well, there’s tradition, and there’s tradition. Ours was a bit…unique to the family. The call usually went something like this:
Phone: Ring, ring…
Me (Answering Phone): Hello? (I knew who it was. Not sure why I had to answer with such a questioning tone.)
Pop: You ready?
Me: (Sigh.) All right…(pulling phone away from my ear)
Pop: THEY SAY IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY! Nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh, nuuu-uuuuh…WE’RE GONNA HAVE A GOOD TIME! Wah-wah-wah-wah. (He was really good with the wah pedal…vocally.)
Yep, he always had to hit me up with his solo, unplugged version of the birthday song by those lads from Liverpool, because we couldn’t be exactly like everyone else.
The conversation would continue, usually with me letting him know that I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be (insert age). His response was always the same.
“Beats the alternative.”
A few years back, the singing and the roses stopped. It wasn’t his fault; there was nothing that could be done to stop the illness that took him this past December.
I can’t help but wonder just how loudly he would’ve been singing this year. Perhaps I’ll just take it upon myself to sing my own version. Traditions like those are a way of keeping someone with you, as are the memories…like the memory of the eleven-year-old version of me riding next to my dad with a rose tucked behind my ear and a smile across my face.