Today is a day like any other. It's the day after the first day of Spring. It's a Saturday. Some folks are working, some folks aren't. Some folks are drawing their last breaths, others are being born into this glorious world. Here in Champaign, Illinois the weather is fairly nice. Lower-50s currently and, coming off of winter, it feels great. So, much like it does, the world continues to turn.
Today is also the 70th anniversary of my father's birth. Regular readers of this blog know all about Lewis Ivy Gladney. I've certainly mentioned him enough times. He passed away in 1997 and, as the years have gone on, things like the anniversary of his birth and the anniversary of his death have loomed less and less and large in my life. Some years, I haven't remembered them until days later. My world has continued to turn.
This year is different.
Perhaps it's the fact that 70 is one of those milestone birthdays. Another decade turned the clock. An age where Lewis could, feasibly, still be here, if cancer hadn't taken him at age 52. It also comes during the same year where I hit a milestone birthday. Later this year (December, in fact), I will turn 40. Along with the typical anxiety one tends to face at these sorts of notable anniversaries, it also hits home that I'm going to be just twelve-year-out from the age dad died at.
Twelve years, dear reader. It doesn't seem like enough time. Oh, there are days where I'm grateful to just be alive, in good health, and thankful to have been born at all, given the huge odds against the probability of conscious existence. And yet.... I'm selfish. I want more time. The past twelve years have, in a certain sense, gone by in a flash. The next twelve will likely do so to an even greater extent.
Hold on a minute, you say: Isn't this supposed to be about your dad? Well, yes, I suppose. But when we remember the dead, we are of course remembering their impact on us, the still-alive. In that regard, there's scant few whose influence can compare to that of a parent. And, truthfully, Lewis' impact has been two-fold.
There's the not-so-good Lewis, whom I probably focused on for far too much of my life. His smoking habit made me not want to smoke (I don't), and his treatment of wait staff made me want to do better (I try to). But then there's really-good Lewis. There's the Lewis who was a damn hard worker, who provided for his family and who felt it important that I balance both sides of my biology - the African-American and the caucasian. Those are all things I am learning to strive to emulate.
It was also important to Lewis that I "be a leader, not a follower." So, in this year in which he would have turned 70, in which I will turn 40, and which will see me continue to strive to be a leader, I will attempt to draw upon the best aspects of Lewis Ivy Gladney. I will try to be strong, to have fortitude and, with luck, will be not only a leader, but a good leader.
Oh, and I'd like to be alive on my 70th birthday, but one thing at a time.