The origin of the half-birthday goes back to November 3rd 1996. I had my oldest daughter out with me while I went shopping for her little sister’s birthday. I don’t know if you know this or not but three year old girls who really want something and aren’t getting it can be really flipping annoying and won’t stop asking and whining, begging and crying and kicking the back of the seat! Just basically browbeating and bullying their dad until he taps out, gives in and and gives them exactly what they wanted.
This particular day my daughter wanted a certain kind of meal that comes in a box with a shiny plastic toy from some sort of Disney princess movie and I could tell by the pitch and volume of her screech that she wasn’t stopping until I gave in.
So we ended up at the arches, playing on a spiral slide, shiny plastic toy in hand and when I let it slip that I was buying her sister a birthday present she forgot all about that damn toy she wailed for for hours and started going ape-shit!! She swore it was her birthday too and that she wanted Cake and ice cream and presents too.
As her patient loving father I tried over and over again to explain how the calendar works and that she was so many months away from her birthday. Did my best to get her on board that tomorrow (November 4th) was her sister’s special day and that her special day wasn’t until May 3rd. But in her current state of distress…a full blown temper-tantrum threatening to explode if I said, “No, sweety listen…” too many more times.
That’s right about the time I realized that the cute way she said, “Fwee anna haff!” when asked how old she was actually mathematically true at that very moment! We were at the six month mark in between her birthdays and as I drove down East Ave on the Kenmore side of Akron I saw the “Rocco’s Pizza” sign and all the birthday parties I had been to as a kid at that pizza joint flashed through my head. As did my teenage years and all the times me and my dudes would get stoned and then stop in at Rocco’s to smash a few pieces of pizza and/or cake as I flirted with this hot blonde Nicole who I always had a thing for. They sold slices of pizza and slices of cake and I couldnt pull into their small parking lot quick enough.
My daughter was almost hyperventilating from how hard she was sobbing, her blue eyes bright and shiny as she sniffled and and wiped her runny nose on the sleeve of her jacket. But the look on her face…the way her eyes widened, her tears stoppd and the smile took over her face when Nicole, still very flirt-worthy, slid two huge pieces of cake piled high with icing in front of us as I wished her a “Happy Half-Birthday” made me forget about all of her antics and screeching! So there in a family owned pizza joint was born the half birthday
To this day my daughter remembers that day, that moment fondly. What she doesn’t remember is how crazy she drove me. She remembers that her daddy loved her so much he created a special day just for her and that he also slid his big dumb piece of cake over in front of her so she could eat both pieces. What she doesn’t remember is that she threw up on our drive back to my dad’s house and that I had to stop at the self-service carwash and clean it up and accidently threw her happy meal toy away!
I went to prison not long after this and she had to celebrate half-birtndays without me and thanks to my bad decisions and her mother’s marriages I missed too many birthdays to ever make up for them. When she and I came back together as father and daughter, Daddy and his princess, she was eighteen and we used poetry to say the sorts of things that would normally go unsaid between fatbners and daughters. The one poem she wrote that tore my soul apart was “Days like these” where she tells me over and over again about the major moments of her life that I missed and how she thought of me on every one of those days and wished that her daddy was there. And on her 21st birthday I wrote her a poem titled, “We had a song.” that looked back on us, our relationship and explored what me being there could have looked like.
And since her birthday is this week I thought why not share it with you and maybe inspire you to look at the relationship you have with your daughter in a new light or to re-examine that same relationship and wonder whether or not she wishes you were there on Day like these….
WE HAD A SONG
We had a song and every time I hear it my mind shows me my favorite picture of you and I. You know the one where you’re gorgeous and that too good to be true I’m still a great dad that never abandoned you version of me still exists. I don’t know why I never told you this….but you and me, we had a song. Well, it was more like a CD and it probably wasn’t just ours. But it sure felt that way that cool summer’s morn as we sat ih the bluegrass, badly kempt with dandelions plucked and piled all around us in the morning dew. The music played, the world passed us by and the two of us giggled like morons as I painted our noses yellow.
Damn you were cute back then…..the cutest, toothless, drooling, bald, couldn’t speak a word of English..thing..I had ever waked and baked with. And that morning the music had the conversations that this father and his daughter would have either too late or not at all. So much was said without uttering a word as your eyes spoke to mine in a dialect that only they speak, giving me your definition of what it means to love without condition. Silence was your song and I was your backup singer.
Now if I had a podcast or a YouTube channel or even just a network TV show. I would have a countdown 5 nights a week, of our top 3 days together and that morning would make the list 93% of the time and someone big like Tristan Thompson’s baby momma would see it and retweet it #yellownoses and boom….we’d go viral!
Now I’m not so sure we should wish that I was there, always, and that we already had all those conversations that we missed; The big ones, the quiet ones, the small, little, loud, private, moronic and psychotic ones you probably have on some list. If we did have all those years back we might have. ore issues between us than the few we do now and shed a quite few more tears, just not together or in a good way. Trust me, I know dysfunctional families, co-dependent mothers, shitty fathers, teen angst and sisters who are never the problem and always the victim. Had I been there I would have said something stupid, been a douche bag dad or forbid yoiu from making some mistake that I already had. You’d lock yourself in your room, crying with your iPad screaming in your ears. “God is dead and no one cares” written on your mirror in that lipstick you only wear cuz’ you know it pisses me off and you’d be sprawled across your bed scribblinh your angst-ridden poetry into your notebook which will later be known as your “black years” and the ink wouldn’t be alone in staining the page.
And me? I would listen outside your door briefly, too cowardly to open your door apologize and give you the hug I wish my dad had. No instead I see myself in the dark corner of a dark bar with a woman…a fake blonde with questionable morals and three men’s names tattooed to hide the track marks on her arm. There would be a chipped ashtray with a forrest of cigarette butts making eyes at a dark green bottle, half-full with an elk on its front sitting on a table that wobbles every time I flick my cigarette or put my head in my hands as I struggle with this decision of whether I should go home to you and apologize, and love and hold and then ignore you again, my daughter who is fated to hate me more than she ever will her mother….or…to go home with this blonde who also had a father that faced this same moment, three tables down two decades ago…and failed.
Bad luck blue eyes goodbye, you’d talk to angels that’s all know your name and I wouldn’t have a remedy.
I know we both wanted a happily ever after father daughter fairy tale but hose are out of style, you can’t even buy them on Google play. I adore you and our relationship….our memories are vivid, our eyes sing in silence while oirnpens speak the truth…
I’m no white knight, you’re no damsel in distress…I’m just your daddy and you’ll forever be my princess.
Happy birthday beautiful daughter of mine. I know Grey stole it from you for the next 17 years or so….but that’s your fault!
Rock on and Drive safe
Daniel J. Royston