Yesterday was my father’s birthday. He was going to be fifty nine.
Dad loved his birthday. He liked birthdays generally, to an extent – it was a chance to sing a loud, off-key rendition of “Happy birthday” and to wrap presents (or, in my younger years, have my sister and I wrap them to his… exacting… standards) and put them out the night before with the expectation that the recipient become very excited upon merely seeing the pile of them. Also, there was cake, and other sweets.
But he was especially happy when it was his special day. Getting older didn’t seem to bother him all that much, he just enjoyed having a birthday. He loved getting presents, something of a nightmare when you were giving him them because there was such a limited range of things he liked. Clothes, in his preferred style and in his size. Merchandise for his favourite football club, always. Aftershave and related things, to an extent. Whiskey, in recent years. I haven’t been in Melbourne for my father’s birthday in a long time and all of the above is either unavailable in Japan or impossible to get through customs in Australia, so I leaned heavily on the final option – chocolates and cookies. I also found that he liked the handkerchiefs you can get over here and I almost always got him one of those too, in the colours of his favourite football club.
And then there were all the other things he liked about his birthday. The food, the cake, the balloons. The sappy cards. The party poppers, with which he and my sister could both do the “Hogan’s Heroes” theme song. The singing. Being the centre of things.
And now, somehow, we all have to do Dad’s birthday without Dad.
I had been dreading yesterday for the last week or so. I wanted so badly not to get it wrong, and I felt I needed to do something to mark the occasion.
In the end, I settled on two things. The first was cake. Is this something I’ll do again? I don’t know. I’m leaning towards “probably not”, but I felt like doing it this year, at least. I could imagine myself marching into one of the pretty cake shops here, mentally consulting the ghost of my father as to which he liked, and buying it. So I did. I didn’t buy a full on cake, but two small cupcakes. Cakes in Japan, when we talk about non-traditional Japanese sweets, tend to be based on French styles, whereas cakes in Australian bakeries favour more British styles, and that leads to cakes that are more different than you might expect. I stood there in Fujiya, dithering, because I wasn’t sure that anything there really would have been to Dad’s taste. In the end, I decided on the bear cakes, though I immediately wondered if I’d picked wrong. They’re kind of too cute for a deceased father, aren’t they? My logic, though, was that if he had been there really, those are what he would have picked those out for us (i.e. my sister, me, maybe my mother too).
The other was printing family photos. I’d been meaning to for for awhile… a long while. Now I can put him up on the wall, at least.
I thought about other things, like setting off the little fireworks you can buy at the supermarkets here in summer time, but it would have been logistically difficult, given I’d be wrangling Mr. K and R was working late and thus unable to assist. I also actually tried to finally sign up for Australia Plus and watch the football, but Paypal is having issues with my account currently and put a stop to that idea too.
I just have to hope that what I did manage was enough, I suppose. Happy birthday Dad.