My dad would’ve been 71 today.
He would’ve gone fishing with his grandchildren, had an afternoon nap, cracked about 1,000 cheesy jokes, then enjoyed dinner with the family followed by some jube jubes and a living room dance party to hits by Vince Gill, Juice Newton and Ricky Skaggs.
But unfortunately the last birthday he celebrated was his 54th.
Yes, it’s been almost two decades since my dad died of ALS. Often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Basically, it’s a death sentence.
I still feel ripped off that he didn’t see me grow up. I was such a fool in my early 20s when he died. It makes me cringe that some of my last conversations with him revolved around my epiphanies of not mixing alcohol and the latest trends in grunge music.
But I have come a long way, baby. And I know he would be proud of me. Through the grieving process, I have learned to honor my feelings and live my life with dignity and a strong sense of purpose.
I have learned to move on from the past and accept what life offers – the good, the bad, and the ugly – with the wisdom in knowing that everything really does happen for a reason.
I raise my glass to you, Jim Schafer, on this day of your birth. You came in and out of this world much too quickly for my liking, but you left your mark.
Thanks to you, not only can I can recite all the words to every country and western hit song from the’70s, ’80s and ’90s, I can also proudly carry on your strong sense of family values. And not to mention that wicked sense of humor, if I do say so myself.
Sending love to all of you who have also lost a loved one much earlier than you had ever imagined. It sucks — I know!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some dancing shoes to put on, a wine glass to fill, and a Vince Gill CD to dust off…