This one is from the CBC Post (Country Bible Church’s monthly newsletter, which I edited from 1997- 2002) I wrote a column entitled Happy Trails. This one was published in November of 1997 and since my birthday is this Friday, I decided to do this one for you.
While I was growing up, my family had three birthdays to observe in November: my sister’s on the 12th, mine on the 13th and my dad’s on the 14th. Since I am the youngest, everyone has always wondered how I managed to be born on the day between the two existing birthdays instead of on one of them, or during another week entirely, but I’ve never been able to explain it, and it really doesn’t matter, since I had no say in it at the time. But I always did felt special having my birthday right next to Dad’s. I guess I thought it meant I had a head start over the other five of his kids on being his favorite.
I don’t’ remember any huge family celebrations taking place over the course of the three birthdays, but mom always had a flair for Angel food cake, so there was usually at least one of them around.
Dad never wanted any fuss at all made over his birthday, something I have come to understand completely the past few years. I remember a few times when I had somehow gotten come money and did some very careful shopping for just the right birthday present for Dad. He always carried a big red or blue bandanna in the back pocket of his overalls. One year, I noticed some of them were getting frayed and worn looking, so I bought him some nice white ones. He opened the pathetically wrapped package I presented to him and dutifully expressed pleasure in the gift by saying simply, “Hmmmm. Ain't those nice?” He was a man of few words, Dad was.
I’ll never forget the summer of 1969. Dad was driving truck for a frozen food company and I got to ride along with him on a run to Denver. I remember it was very hot and the truck had no air conditioning, so we rode with the windows down. That, and the roar of the truck engine pretty much eliminated any small talk, other than, “How much further?” and “When can we stop and eat?”
One stop that stands out in my mind was at a rest stop along I-80. There was a pond behind the restroom building and Dad and I walked to the water’s edge and saw some carp swimming close to the shore. I threw them a few Cheetos, which they gobbled up and then we both laughed when Dad threw in his cigarette butt, and one of them gobbled it up just as greedily as if it were a Cheeto.
In a tragic turn of events, a few short months after that vacation with Dad, he suffered a massive heart attack and died at the age of 56. I didn’t feel much like having birthdays after that.
In an effort to preserve Dad’s memory, I keep a small collection of his “things.” In addition to a few photos, I have his wallet and a coin purse that he kept in his pocket. And a white handkerchief. But one of my favorite things is a piece of paper that he wrote on. It is a receipt from Oakland Memorial Hospital dated November 18, 1955 and signed by Dr. H. Tibbles that he “received from John E. Gatewood the amount of $98.00 in payment for the delivery and five days of care for his wife and baby daughter. Dad’s signature is on it. Looking at it gives me comfort. I am his daughter, He paid for me. “Paid in full” it says across the bottom of the receipt.
I have another Father who paid for me. Only it cost Him way more than $98.00. He paid my sin debt in full by the blood of His only Son. I am His. And because of that payment, I won’t ever have to die and I’ll someday be reunited with the people I’ve missed so very much since they left this life for a better one.
Now THAT makes me want to throw a birthday party!