“What do you want for dinner, son?” My father asked the same question every year on my birthday. The answer was always the same. “King Crab legs!”
When my mother was pregnant with me, the doctor (following procedure) calculated my due date. My father was thrilled — both at the news that a second child was on the way, and at the surprise that the due date fell on his birthday. My older sibling being a girl, my dad decided that he wanted a boy this time. According to my mother, he was sure that he was getting a son and on his birthday to boot!
I was four days late. That didn’t bother him too much because he still got his son, and we still celebrated together every year. He’d always make sure to tell me that I was the best birthday present he’d ever received. I’d always feel incredibly special.
The tradition on “our” birthday was for just the two of us to go out for a fancy dinner, then afterward we’d return home and have Boston Cream Pie (our collective choice of birthday cake) with my mom and sisters.
“What do you want for dinner, son?” Dad asked
“King Crab legs!” I answered
Another year, and another fancy dinner. Just Dad and I! I was so excited.
We got to the restaurant, as usual. We sat down, as usual. Dad told them it was my birthday, as usual. I ordered King Crab Legs, as usual. Dad told the waiter that he was fine with just water. Not usual.
The food came, and it was delicious! I was young, and it didn’t occur to me that Dad wasn’t eating until after I started eating my own food.
“Why aren’t you eating anything, Dad?” I asked him.
“He grinned back at me with tears in his eyes, and said “I just wanted to watch you enjoy your crab legs this year.”
I offered him some of mine but he told me to just enjoy my food, and let him enjoy watching me. He explained that the crab was my treat but spending one-on-one time with me was his. What a guy!
When we got home, Mom had a plate of food waiting for him. He ate it, explaining that Mom had mistakenly put it out, and he didn’t want it to go to waste. When he finished, he brought out the Boston Cream Pie, and we blew out the candles together.
I’ve had a lot of birthdays since then. Some good, some not so good. Each year I can’t help but remember one in particular. The one when my dad couldn’t really afford to keep tradition but figured out how to do it anyway.
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