My Birthday & My Dad
I don’t usually write to you on Sundays. But I’m making an exception today because it’s my birthday, and I’d like to tell you a story…
…about my dad.
His name was Wally Ruwitch. When he was 50 years old he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer.
I was 24 then, working as a school teacher, trying to figure out what to do next.
I was in the kitchen when Mom and Dad came from the doctor’s appointment.
Dad delivered the news. Monotone. No obvious emotion.
Then he paused, looked me in the eyes and said, “It’s alright to cry.”
So I did.
Nine months later, on my 25th birthday, March 7, 1990, Dad died.
He was in bad shape in the days leading up to March 7. There were several times when we thought it might be over.
But he stuck around. I think he held on because he knew my birthday was coming.
The night before he died, I was with him in the hospital, and he said, “See you tomorrow T. Big day.”
He could barely talk but he told me he was looking forward to my birthday.
Those were the last words he spoke to me.
When I tell people that my father died on my 25th birthday, they say things like, “Oh, I’m so sorry. That’s so awful.”
Yes, it was awful to lose my father when he was just 51 and I was just 25.
But if it was going to happen, it might as well have happened on my birthday.
I think about my dad often — just about every day.
I think about him MORE on my birthday, and that makes my birthdays better, not worse.
I think about all the things he taught me, and I lean into those lessons as I look forward to another year ahead.
After Dad died, I was talking with my maternal grandmother, Miriam, and she said this about my dad: “When you were talking to him, he made you feel like you were the most important person in the world.”
She was right.
That means he listened. He looked you in the eye. He spent more time asking about you then talking about himself. He looked forward to YOUR birthday. He cared.
Every year on my birthday when I think about my Wally Ruwitch, I think about what my grandmother told me, and I resolve to keep trying…
…to be more like Dad.
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