It’s my dad’s 70th birthday today so I wanted to write a little about him. He’s a true Renaissance man, the kind of person you can count on to know any trivia and have the skills to do anything. Both my brother and I have taken full advantage of this (with basement storage, bird gazebosgarage shelvingpergolas…) without really thinking about how cool it is he knows just the right way to do something, or how much work it might be to do it.

As you get older, you get to know a parent like a person and not a parent. So now I realize how much work and worry and effort went into all those effortless-looking, beautifully drafted plans for pergolas and shelves. I know how hard it must have been for him to stick with an unfulfilling job for so long, just to make sure his family had what they wanted. I know what things will make him anxious, because they make me anxious, too (strangers, places you haven’t been before, social events).

When I read this passage in Across the River and Into the Trees years ago, I thought, “This is my dad.”

“He smiled as only the truly shy can smile. It was not the easy grin of the confident, nor the quick slashing smile of the extremely durable and the wicked. It had no relation with the poised, intently used smile of the courtesan or the politician. It was the strange, rare smile which rises from the deep, dark pit, deeper than a well, deep as a mine, that is within them.”

When you get my dad to smile, you feel like you’ve accomplished something. When you get his approval, you know you have the approval of a man who holds himself to the highest possible standards and expects the world to do the same.

He does not waste money. He does not swear. He is not weak, mentally or physically. He does not give up. And I’ve been able to make him smile sometimes.

Happy 70th birthday!