This is the speech I wrote for my dad’s 60th birthday party. I never got a chance to read it there so I am posting it here on his actual birth day.
Invariably on momentous occasions speeches highlighting a person’s fine character and wondrous achievements are doled out in hardy measure. Most of the time said person’s reputation is glossed over and stories embellished casting them in a radiant rosy glow. I am not such a glorious speech writer. Yes, it’s true… my fiction degree did little to temper me in the arts of oration. That’s a much different field, although, I can spin a good yarn. At least that’s what my teacher’s used to tell me. But I won’t tell tales about my father. He’s enough of a character himself that I don’t need to embellish. I will however enlighten you about a few of his finer qualities, a few that he has handed down and a few he wished he probably hadn’t.
To this day my dad has a habit of striking up conversation with nearly anyone he comes in contact with. An early memory of us driving somewhere for some holiday has him sitting with his family in the minivan at a toll plaza chatting with the toll booth operator while a line of cars honked behind us. When I six, Mom took me to Disneyland and capriciously I talked to a women street cleaner who later on came and let me turn off lights to start the Electrical Lights Parade. Like my father I like to talk to random people, you never who you can meet and who you will become friends with. And once he becomes friends with someone… no matter how much time has elapsed he’ll still call just to see how things are going. Friendly and loyal and these qualities in my father are not lacking in their genuine nature for I have always known him to dead straight with a soul. While his words may be tempered with softness he still delivers with honesty.
Now, I too have an honest streak. I hate to see the under dog go un-championed and while that may be admirable quality, I also have a habit of telling people where to stick it at inconvenient times. In high school I worked at Old Navy for two weeks close to the holidays. Why two weeks? Well, they told me I couldn’t have Christmas Eve off. That particular Christmas Eve I had plans to see my dad and my family for the first time in a number of years. Damn if they were going to keep me from it and they found out then and there just how honest I was.
But it’s nothing my dad wouldn’t have been proud of since he instilled in me the belief to be true to myself. He taught me that it’s okay to march to the beat of your own drum and long as you’re happy. He’s never wanted more for me than that. My happiness. When he called me up two years ago and said that he would pay for me to finish my degree at Columbia, I wish he could have seen how I danced about for glee. His faith in me, that I would do something with my artistic bent was over-whelming. The fact that he has never once judged me, or seems to judge anyone is the most important thing I have learned from him.
I am honored that I can spend his 60th birthday with him and that there will be many more birthdays and many more memories. Ones that include him and ones that resonate with his spirit.