a happy birthday wish i wish i could wish

Dear Dad,

In honor of your birthday week, I went to a local bookstore a few days ago to sit quietly and think about you. Bookstores always make me think of you. They conjure up images of you in your den, where you loved to spend your free time, surrounded by thousands of books; books on shelves and in piles all around you. Your love and deep appreciation of books was infectious, though it didn’t quite catch on for me until my senior year of high school. For a few years during my youth I snubbed my nose at books as some sort of tweaked tween act of rebellion. The kind of rebellious act I am dreading from my kids. But I guess it couldn’t have been worse. I guess it could have been alcohol or boys. Oh, wait…whatever. Anyway, I owe my love of all things literary to you. Thanks for that, Dad.

I wonder how you would feel about the latest fad of electronic reading devices. I don’t think you would like them, because part of the charm of reading a book is holding it’s crisp pages between your fingertips. Smelling the lumber it stemmed from. Feeling the author’s emotions bleed through the text and into your own soul. For the same reasons, you were against email. It took away the personal touch of face-to-face communication. You found emails cold and unfeeling. I know how disappointed you  would be in the universal move away from hand-written cards, Dad.

I think about the innumerable books I bought you for every birthday and special holiday leading up to your death. Were you annoyed that I wasn’t clever enough to come up with something unique? Or were you thankful for yet another hard-bound piece of history or prose that I carefully hand picked for you out of love? I hope it was the latter. I will go with the latter. I always felt safe getting you a book since I think they made you feel safe in a way. Yep, you in your brown leather chair, watching a show on BBC or listening to the classical radio station, surrounded by books. That is the my favorite image of you in my mind. A tableau of sorts, that I keep with me, to make me feel safe.

Today, you would have been 79 years old. Damn.

I hope you are having a celestial celebration of sorts, with books and Dixieland and some vodka, straight up. On earth, in my heart, I am celebrating with you.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Love, Mary



  1. 1

    How special. This year my mom is very ill and in all likely hood she will not be with us next Christmas or even next spring. I love to hold my mom and smell her and kiss her cheeks even though she can barely respond. I pray that God gives me another day with her. I have been sick the past couple of days and keeping my distance. I can not stand not burying my head under her chin. Thank God for memories, may yours bring you comfort this week.

    • Mary says:

      Donna, I am so sorry to hear about your mom. My heart and thoughts go out to you. And yes, thank God for memories.

  2. 2
    La Jolla Mom says:

    Love this! Beautifully written, Mary and such a great tribute.

  3. 3
    Kinzie says:

    What a wonderful post. I bet your dad is smiling!

  4. 4

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kinzie Jones, Mary Burt-Godwin. Mary Burt-Godwin said: Missing my dad today on what would've been his 79th b-day. http://bit.ly/gSHkYf […]

  5. 5
    Sylvia says:

    Happy Birthday to your Dad. I will also celebrate for and with both of You.

  6. 6
    Laura F says:

    Now I understand your love for books. Thanks for sharing this personal post with all of us Mary. I hope you enjoy today as you remember your dad.

  7. 7
    StacyQ says:

    That is lovely….
    I’m a Daddy’s girl too, but I’m lucky in that mine is still with us and inching toward his 80th birthday. He’s “elbowed the old grim reaper out of the way” a few times, as my brother likes to say. Thank heaven.

  8. 8
    Helena says:

    This is such a sweet tribute. I am going with the latter, too. I think he was lucky to have such a loving daughter. And it sounds like you were lucky to have such an amazing dad.

  9. 9
    stefanie says:

    This was beautiful. As your posts always are when you write about your beloved dad. I love you my friend and happy birthday to your book loving dad.

  10. 10

    Love this. Simply beautiful. And you had me in tears because I almost lost my dad this year.

  11. 11
    MomZombie says:

    Happy Birthday to your father! My father would have been 73 this year. I cannot even image a 70-something dad as my dad died at 58. Our fathers shared many things: love of books, music (Dixieland!), photography, history. See how he lives on in you and through you? Hugs.

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