It’s my Dad’s birthday today—which means he’s now officially 61 years old.
People usually talk about a moment in their relationship with their parents when their progenitors’ frailties and vulnerabilities as human beings become apparent for the first time. This moment can happen fairly early in life—through an unexpected illness or a sudden outburst—or it can happen fairly late, but whatever the incident is and whenever it happens, what’s left is the stunning and bewildering realization that our parents are people too.
I don’t think I’ve had this moment with my Dad and I’m not sure I ever will. I’ve watched him grow older: his hair turn white, his waist grow thick, and his health become less robust, but in spite of all the obvious signs of mortality and weakness, he’s never stopped being invincible for me. My siblings and I have relied on him for as long as I can remember and he’s never let us down. Philosophers and theologians talk about their quests for certainty—for finding universal and immutable principles that people can hold on to—but all intellectual quests are ultimately rooted in existential searches. If I never cared to find an Archimedean point in my own career as a philosopher, it was only because I had all the certainty I needed in the fact of my father’s love. This was a man who built his life around his children—and he did it quietly and unobtrusively, with a lot of humility and a lot of humor.
There are few phenomena in life I can’t talk much about simply because words massively fail, and my Dad is one of them. So: happy, happy birthday Dad. Just because everyone else says their dad is the best in the world doesn’t make my claim (that you’re the best dad in the world) any less true (because it is).
I love you.