I was born on July 13th, a day that also happens to be my dad’s birthday. This incidental event has created a small but special bond between my dad and I, and it is reinforced every year. Dad isn’t one for nicknames but he calls me “birthday girl” (which I absolutely love) and in return, I usually make a bad joke about how I didn’t get him anything because how could I possibly outdo the best gift he’s ever received?
Even before I was born, my dad and I had a special connection, according to family lore. When mom first got pregnant, she and dad decided not to find out the gender of the baby in advance so they had to come up with two sets of names. It was easy to agree on a choice for a boy– Danny– but they couldn’t settle on what to name the baby if it was a little girl. Finally, they turned to the most reliable of arbiters and flipped a coin toss. Mom won. The baby came, it was a girl and my older sister was named Jessica. When the coin landed, the story goes, Dad said “I hope we have another girl so I can name her Michele!” This story is a family favorite in the “Careful What you Wish For” category, since my parents now have a total of five daughters, but in my view, the most important part of the story is that my dad picked my name, that I was special to him even before my birth, and especially so when I entered the world on his birthday.
Overall, it’s a wonderful to share this day. I have great memories of the two of us fishing together while mom got our birthday dinner ready. With four sisters, private time alone with any parent was a rare treat. Other times it seemed like less of a blessing, like that year dad spanked me for dawdling and the time that we drove all the way to see Great Grandma Obie and she had a big chocolate cake for dad, not me. To a greater extent, I sometimes wonder about the impact this little happenstance has had on my life. For years, I unintentionally viewed myself as the surrogate son, the “special” one, and tried to live up to those expectations. I was a star student and an athlete, I dismissed music and the arts, I bossed my sisters around, I studied Mechanical Engineering– all in an effort to coax myself to be more like him, fulfill my birthright, and win his approval.
This year, our birthday is particularly significant because, this year, I will become exactly half of my dad’s age. One year ago I realized this was coming and made a bunch of nerdy graphs in excel. All year I’ve eagerly anticipating this otherwise unremarkable occasion. What does it mean to be half my dad’s age? It means that I am now exactly the age that he was when I was born. On that day, when I was seconds, minutes and then hours old, my age was an infinitesimal fraction of his. And now, here I am, fully half.
My dad has had an aversion to his birthday ever since he turned 46 and therefore reached 100% of his dad’s oldest age. I never met Grandpa Obie, who died suddenly of a heart attack well before I was born. I remember asking dad what he wanted for his 60th birthday and he said “just to live that long.” Today, I’m half dad’s age, and according to my nifty graphs, we would both have to live another 60 years for me to reach 75% of his age, another 2,006 years to get to 99%, and never, not in a forever of living, could I fully catch up.
It don’t know how long my dad and I will live and I don’t know how many more of these arbitrary age milestones we will reach, but I like the exercise. It reinforces this thing that I already and always knew, which is that I will never be my dad. I will never be able to recite on command the laws of physics that rule astrological phenomena, or build a motorcycle piece by piece, or send five daughters through college, or know what it was to stand at the foot of a bed on the day that I was born. And no matter how much I try and not in a life time of living, will I ever be all that my dad is. But it feels pretty good to be half.