September 12th was my father’s birthday. Since he passed away in 2005, I have always done something special to commemorate his birthday. It’s a ritual that really is more for me than anyone else. It used to be that I would simply go to his favorite restaurant in town and have lunch, usually with a friend. We’d toast to his birthday and I would have my chance to reflect on the friend I lost. A couple years ago, that restaurant closed. I’ve struggled to find a new ritual to fill this void.
This year, I traveled to Houston to see my fiance during the week of my dad’s birthday. My trip there was scheduled to overlap with a visit from her parents (my future in-laws!). We visited, we traveled, we had a good time. Funny thing is, I had such a good time with her and her family that I nearly forgot about my annual ritual to honor my dad. Perhaps the ritual I needed all along was to spend the day enjoying time with the family that I still have and the new family I am gaining.
My father and I traveled together as often as we could in my adulthood. We hiked, biked, rafted and camped everywhere. We would spend months planning the next excursion. Our greatest adventure was in 1998 when we both went to Peru together for nearly a month of hiking, rafting and exploring. The trip culminated in a hike across the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. On that hike, there was only one small village along the trail, high in the Andes, that had a store….a store that carried BEER! My dad and I shared an amazing beer together somewhere around 10,000 ft along the Inca Trail. That beer was a bottle of a Peruvian beer called Cristal. I’ve never seen it anywhere other than Peru.
The day after my dad’s birthday this year, I was feeling incredibly guilty about missing out on celebrating his day. I was feeling especially guilty about the fact that I was having such a good time with my future in-laws and fiance that I nearly forgot altogether that it was his birthday. That next day at the grocery store as we browsed the beer isle looking for a favorite beer of mine I can only find when I go to Houston, I found a 6-pack of Cristal. I’d never seen it at that store before, but there it was. It hit me like a punch to the gut. I know it sounds crazy but it felt like a message…to focus on what I have and not dwell on what I’ve lost.
As it turns out, the delay of doing something special for my dad allowed me to stumble on to something, possibly, much more meaningful.