You would have been 79 today. I can still see your blue eyes twinkling with every laugh. They aren't really even blue though. They are a steely grey with shoots of blue running through them. I can feel your tanned arms hugging me tightly and your bigger than life hands holding onto mine.
Your hands... they always mesmerized me. They were enormous, rough, and did all of these things that seemed impossible. But yet, any time I got hurt or was sad, they became so gentle. I remember them clapping to the beat of the music in church. I remember them softly stroking my hair as I fell asleep in your lap. I remember the way they felt the day you died. I remember holding onto them and willing you to come back to me.
Do you remember this day last year? You were getting worse. But it was your birthday, so I went and got your favorite burgers and your favorite milk shake, and we had dinner. You got tired early and confused, so I left giving you a kiss on the cheek and a tight hug, smelling in your aftershave and wishing I could keep you forever.
The call came that night. "Papa may be having a stroke. We've called the ambulance."
I rushed to your house, and watched them put you in the back of the truck. The flashing red lights seemed unreal in front of your house, out of place. They closed the doors and drove off, then the rest of us jumped in our cars and followed. But I hit my knees as they left, still hearing the sirens. And I cried. I knew you would never come home.
Today is your birthday. Mom called already, to remind me. Remind me? I would never forget today. Remember when I was four, and we went to celebrate your birthday? I wanted the waiters to sing to me, too. So you pulled me into your lap, and told everybody today was my birthday. And every year since then, we would exchange small presents, for our "matching" birthday.
I miss you. I miss you so much.
Happy birthday, papa.