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WHO’S READING IN THE KITCHEN?

It is six am on the date of my father’s birthday. He would have been 104.

I am writing this on my living room sofa with just one light on. Of course. Now 16 years after his death and 43 after living in the same house, he reminds me from his bridge game in heaven’s card room to turn off lights no one is using.

When I moved to New York after college, I called him on his birthday. When I became a mother, I called him with my daughter and we sang. His laughter and voice were filled with glee and when I asked how he planned to celebrate, he’d say, “I’m doing it now talking to you. What could be better?”

In Florida, during Christmas vacations, I’d celebrate with him. After our morning trip to Publix with my mother’s grocery list, we’d play gin rummy and casino, read, have a tuna or ham sandwich, walk over to the condo pool where, if my daughter was with us, they’d swim laps together, and then we’d all go out for an Early Bird Dinner. Nothing fancy. Or pretentious.

Early was better. So was “cheap.” That was how my father liked it.

After dinner, we’d read and play more casino or gin. Or Scrabble. When my father retired, he and my mother played Scrabble once or twice a day—every day–until Mom had to go to a nursing home.

My father was my best and favorite teacher. The way he lived—oh so modestly—and who he was—funny, wise, feisty, frugal, spirited, smart, his own person, and someone who absolutely refused to keep up with the Joneses touches me every day. Nothing and no one came before his family. Being with us or a good book and being a devoted husband was where it was at.

Today when I finish this blog, I will write a rough draft of my next AARP essay (I am a writer now for AARP. More about that later.) Late afternoon, my husband I are going swimming and then taking our Scrabble game and books to my daughter’s. We’ll hang out with our baby grandson, Ryan, my daughter, and son-in-law. Then the parents will go out. My husband and I, the babysitters, will play Scrabble and read if Ryan sleeps. If not, we’ll hold him.

And I’ll walk around their apartment turning off lights. “Who’s reading in the kitchen?” I hear my father asking whether I am home or at my daughter’s.

That is how I will honor my father who would have been 104. That is how I like it. Every day. Whenever I can. What could be better?

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