How I celebrate this October day...

Easter 1953

I was raised in a home where October 31st was a big deal.

My mother decorated our home for Halloween with as much joy as she did for Christmas, and for one reason only - it was my father's birthday. In all innocence, mother and their friends celebrated his birthday in grand Halloween style. 

If my father were alive today, he would be 92. The last birthday we celebrated with him was on October 31, 1999 - five weeks before he went to be with the Lord. It was probably his only birthday in my parents' 51 year marriage that did not include ghosts and goblins, black cats and spider webs, silly costumes and my mother. 

Mother was in the hospital with rapidly deteriorating health and my father was in a nursing home with dementia and severe emphysema. Even in his dementia, he knew that something was amiss, but it wasn't the ambiance of Halloween. What he missed was my mother - the woman he knew he loved, though he didn't always remember he was married to her.

In the short time my father was in the nursing home before his passing, he once asked mother for her phone number so he could call to ask her out. Another time he told one of the nurses that I was his daughter, but when the nurse asked if my mother, who was sitting in a wheelchair next to him, was his wife, he answered, "No. I'm not married.

My father may have forgotten that mother was his wife, but he never forgot that he loved her. While mother was a patient in the rehab section of the same nursing facility, he wheeled over to her room to see her and fought with her roommate when she tried to keep him out by blocking the entrance to the room. {A nursing home must sometimes resemble a preschool.}

"She doesn't feel well today," we told him when he asked on his birthday as we gathered around him at a table in the nursing home's conference room. "This piece is for your mother," he announced - pointing to one half of his large birthday cake after cutting it in two.  

My mother and father were not perfect in their marriage or as parents. Neither are we - far from it. There's always the temptation to pass the blame for my own failures on to theirs, but I choose to honor the way they lived and loved the best they knew how - because grace filled the gaps, large and small, and love covers a multitude of sins

In his series on the Ten Commandments, our pastor taught that there's no age or time limit on honoring our fathers and mothers. It's a commandment for all ages, for all time.

As I count God's good gifts with Ann in a grateful community, I want to honor my earthly father on what would be his birthday. I remember and celebrate the gift of this October day, thankful for... 

...the grace of God displayed on the cross of Christ - grace that saved my father and a wretch like me
...the hope of heaven and a father who waits for me there
...a father who unquestionably loved my mother 
...the inspiration of my father's creative bent - though he rarely felt confident to reveal his giftedness father's example of humility and compassion for the least of these
...a father who loved his church and friends
...a father who was gifted in math and cheerfully did our taxes each year
...a father who grew in his love for the Lord and God's Word, even as his dementia progressed

How are you celebrating this October day? I'd really love to know.

{Photos} my parents, my grandmothers, me and my baby brother, Easter 1953.