You know, I used to think it odd that my dad would make an effort to mention his grandfather’s birthday whenever it came along throughout the year. He would tell me it was Popi’s (pronounced like Popeye) birthday and how old he would have been. I never said it out loud, but I know I would think it… Why is that important to remember?
But it’s because I was disconnected from this man who was my great-grandfather. He passed away before I was born. Actually, if I’m not mistaken, he died before my parents ever met. Sure, Dad mentioned Popi’s birthday every year. Just like he remembered his other grandparents’ birthdays. And his parents’ birthdays. And his siblings’…
There are very few birthdays that I have committed to memory. Some are burned into my brain because of how close they are to mine. Two of my childhood best friends, Jessica and Justin… I will always remember their birthdays as March 9 and 16, respectively. But that’s because mine is March 6. Just like I’ll always remember I shared my birthday with my Uncle Ira and a girl I used to go to church with, Beth.
Outside of those, I know my sister’s birthday is November 10. I know my mother’s birthday is February 18. And I know that Dad’s birthday is today, June 16.
He would have been 69 today.
I look back at how Dad would remember birthdays and would bring them up in conversation on those special days. I look back at how I would smile and nod and go along with the importance he placed on those days. But I never committed those days to memory. I couldn’t remember any of those dates if my life depended on it.
But I look back and I realize that there are so few people left who will make a big deal out of Grayson Lee Peck’s birthday. How many of us are there who remember that today is the anniversary of his birth? How many remember that he would have been 69 today?
He wasn’t famous. He wasn’t a great success, at least not in any way the world measures success. But he was a good man. He was a good father. He was a good friend. He was quiet. He was shy… to a point. He was funny. He had a brilliant singing voice.
I know now why Dad took the time to remember the birthdays of loved ones who had long passed on from this life. It’s because if we don’t remember, who will?
Looking forward, the reality is that I may never have children of my own. I may not have a son or daughter to tell stories about their grandfather. I may not be able to pass on my experiences of having known him to anyone as time marches on.
I know that there will inevitably come a time when no one remembers my dad. They won’t remember what he meant to the people whose lives he touched. They won’t remember what he meant to me. They won’t remember that June 16 was his birthday. They won’t remember that October 6 was the day he died.
Some may look at me the way I looked at him when he talked about those bygone birthdays. Some may label it as unhealthy to continue to hang on to days like this so many years after his death. Call it whatever you want.
But I’m going to keep on remembering for as long as I’m able to remember.