I Have Outlived My Father


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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41 Responses

  1. Burt Likko says:

    Happy birthday, my friend! Turning 40 is a lot of fun. IIRC, my 40th involved a fair amount of grape juice. And a selection of people chosen from nearly every phase of my life, from late grade school to the contemporary years. A fabulous time. I hope yours is too.

    Now, there’s a price to pay. There’s this guy, who needs to lose some weight and get a better haircut and smarten up his wardrobe. Looks a lot like my dad. And somewhere along the way, I don’t remember when, the dude just moved in to my damn house! I wish he’d go somewhere else and let me get back to feeling like I’m still 25, like I do when there’s no mirror around.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

      We are one of three couples that hang out together often (though not nearly often enough) and the males of these couples are all turning 40 within a few months of each other. We had a discussion about how we absolutely *CAN’T* have a party because…

      We asked ‘A’ what he wanted to do for his birthday and he said that he wanted to go up to the mountains, do some fishing, make a campfire, maybe drink some mash, and sleep under the stars.

      We asked ‘P’ what he wanted to do and he said “Strippers! No… HOOKERS!!!! And we can all wear togas! And I get a throne and people take turns fellating me! EVERYONE AT THE PARTY!!!!!!”

      They turned to me and I said “I want to get drunk and write an essay.”

      I think, of the three of us, I am the only one who will have my birthday wish come true.

      Of course: The year ain’t over yet.

      I mean: thanks.Report

  2. Chris says:

    Happy birthday.

    I tried to type something out about your brief story about your father and his death, at an age earlier than the one you’ve now reached, but nothing really comes out. So thank you for sharing, and happy birthday again.Report

  3. Happy birthday, JB. It was a lovely essay. I’m sorry you lost your Dad so young.Report

    • I originally had a paragraph about the evolution of the worst thing that has ever happened to something statistically likely to happen to something that is the way the world ought to be, all things considered, assuming it’s peacetime… but I couldn’t do anything with it.

      I mean: thanks.Report

  4. greginak says:

    Happy Birthday…nothing to really add…just have many more happy birthdays.Report

  5. Christopher Carr says:

    Powerful piece Jaybird. And Happy Birthday!Report

  6. Kolohe says:

    Feliz cumpleaños, dude and well done as always.Report

  7. BlaiseP says:

    My heart leaps up when I behold
    A rainbow in the sky:
    So was it when my life began;
    So is it now I am a man;
    So be it when I shall grow old,
    Or let me die!
    The Child is father of the Man;
    I could wish my days to be
    Bound each to each by natural piety.


    Many happy returns of the day to you, Jaybird. Forty was a long time ago for me and a good year it was, too. May it be such a year for you, too.Report

  8. bookdragon says:

    Happy Birthday.

    Milestones are bittersweet. This hit home in that I’ll (hopefully) pass a similar milestone in a few months – the age when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. So far, I’m cancer-free, but the mammogram (scheduled just after the birthday) will be an occasion for reflection.Report

  9. Glyph says:

    Happy Birthday JB.Report

  10. Johanna says:

    Happy Birthday.Report

  11. Michelle says:

    Happy Birthday Jay! Beautiful essay. Bonus points for quoting Warren Zevon.Report

  12. North says:

    Happy Birthday Jay ol’ boy! Now the important question: what’ve you selected to do for your midlife crisis?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to North says:

      I’m thinking about writing a childrens’ book.Report

      • zic in reply to Jaybird says:

        Young adult novel or picture book?

        And happy Birthday. And while I’m not sorry you’ve outlived your dad, I am sorry that he’s not here to share your life.

        I’d put the 40’s down as being the best decade of life. Comfortable in your own skin, not yet seeing the drag that will, inevitably, slow life down, point of gaining real mastery over the things you do. Old enough to earn respect from experience but young enough to take physical risk. It’s a good decade.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to zic says:

          Just a picture book. I’ve gotten the treatment from the ‘tubes.

          I’ve heard 34 pages. Just write the words, don’t find an artist. They have in-house artists. (You can write what you want the picture to be doing, of course.)

          I’ve also found this. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll pound it out this weekend.Report

          • zic in reply to Jaybird says:

            32 pages. Print books are printed on a sheet that’s folded and cut to become eight pages, called a signature. Picture books are always multiples of eight, for that reason; and that includes title, copyright, and end pages.

            If you read through several and count pages as you follow the story, you’ll see that it actually defines the arc of story. There’s a specific rhythm to a 32-page picture book, which is the standard. It’s good to get a feel for that, too.

            But one never ‘pounds out’ a children’s book; every word counts, and it’s the most competitive publishing market out there. I’ve submitted dozens of times, had two accepted, and the houses either consumed by a larger house of out of business between acceptance and anticipated publication; so no published success stories.

            Best advice from successful children’s authors I’ve known is get an agent. And they’ll never tell you who their agent is, either.Report

          • Fish in reply to Jaybird says:

            If it’s the children’s book you’ve talked about before, you should totally write it.Report

      • I hear paranormal teen romance is a popular genre these days.Report

  13. Tod Kelly says:

    Happy birthday, my friend. That was one hell of a post.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Your essay reminded me of another piece that moved me, which seems appropriate to post here. It’s by one of my favorite poets, Donald Justice:

      Men at forty
      Learn to close softly
      The doors to rooms they will not be
      Coming back to.

      At rest on a stair landing,
      They feel it
      Moving beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
      Though the swell is gentle.

      And deep in mirrors
      The rediscover
      The face of the boy as he practices trying
      His father’s tie there in secret

      And the face of that father,
      Still warm with the mystery of lather.
      They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
      Something is filling them, something

      That is like the twilight sound
      Of the crickets, immense,
      Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
      Behind their mortgaged houses.Report

  14. May the God you don’t believe in bless you fully at this tipping point in your life. Please say hello to the missus for me, and thanks for sharing this observation. I don’t remember turning 40, but 30 and 50 are in there pretty solidly.

    Still hope to meet you some day so we can move our love-hate-love relationship to 3 dimensions.

    So happy birthday.


  15. rexknobus says:

    jaybird — My dad: got to age 45 with his malignant melanoma. I was 16.

    My 40th (many moons ago): spent au naturel in a south pacific lagoon with FemRex. Lovely.

    Your essay: Touching and valuable.

    I mean: thanks.Report

  16. Jaybird says:

    Thank you all for your lovely wishes.Report

  17. Pinky says:

    Every few months I’ll spend an afternoon youtubing Warren Zevon songs. He’s the only artist I do that for. He was a genuinely bittersweet songwriter and musician: not bitter or sweet, but both.

    My dad is 90 and I’m 47. I not only don’t want to outlive him, I’m not that crazy about outliving him.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Pinky says:

      Old Chinese story. The emperor asks a philosopher what the perfect fate would be. The philosopher replied “You will die and your son will bury you. He will die and his son will bury him. His son will die and his son will bury him.”

      Enraged, the emperor responds “What a terrible fate that would be!”

      The philosopher replied “Would you have the burials in any other order?”Report

  18. MikeSchilling says:

    Happy Birthday. May you have many more, all while sticking around here.Report

  19. Patrick Cahalan says:

    You’ve survived another round trip around Sol on spaceship Terra! +1 Wisdom! -1 Constitution! Choose a new skill!Report

  20. Jeff No-Last-Name says:

    Happy birthday, knucklehead (that’s one of the great complements).

    I had my dad around for a long time, but it wasn’t enough. This weekend is his birthday — I’m going to call my mom and celebrate.Report

  21. wardsmith says:


    Since everyone is doing poems:
    All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players,
    They have their exits and entrances,
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
    Then, the whining schoolboy with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
    Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
    Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
    Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
    Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
    Seeking the bubble reputation
    Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice
    In fair round belly, with good capon lin’d,
    With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
    Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
    And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
    Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
    With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
    His youthful hose well sav’d, a world too wide,
    For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
    Turning again towards childish treble, pipes
    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
    That ends this strange eventful history,
    Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.Report

    • wardsmith in reply to wardsmith says:

      BTW 40 is quite a ways in my rearview mirror now. My oldest is roughly a dozen yrs younger than you. I envy you what was in many ways my best decade and in many ways my worst. Naturally if I could do it all over again I would.

      Hang on, I’ve got to go yell at some kids on my lawn.Report

  22. Fish says:

    Happy birthday, Jay.

    “When I was a kid, grownups seemed so very Grown Up. I feel like a 20-year old who isn’t very good at faking having gone around the sun so very many times.”

    I often think this, too. The benefit of time and distance has allowed me to look back at dad as he was when I was growing up and realize that the experience was the same for him, too.Report