Today is my father’s birthday.

A day where, like most families, we would have gathered to watch him open presents. Presents like a Pacers t-shirt, another political book to add to the shelves of ones he had already, or a bag of chocolate-covered peanuts. They weren’t gifts that cost much, yet he loved those things. And you can bet the bag of peanuts, double-dipped in chocolate no less, would be gone by the time we had said our goodbyes and loaded the kids in the car.

Certain dates are etched in our brains for various sentiments, and the birthday of a loved one who has passed is no different. Same goes for the days my children were born, my hire date at the radio station, or the day I walked down the aisle. They are filed away in our memories in the same manner Pizza Hut’s delivery line is listed in my address book.

We’ll never forget them.

I suppose I’ve dreaded this day for some time. I didn’t realize how much until I drove home from baseball last night and it hit me that May 15th would arrive whether I was prepared or not.

I will miss the usual routine on Dad’s birthday. Waking up in the morning and calling Dad to wish him a good day. Gathering for a cookout, possibly pork chops dipped in orange juice on the grill, and watching Dad play cornhole with his son-in-laws, cigar in one hand, bag of corn in the other.

I’ll miss seeing him open my present, possibly a shirt, then disappear to try it on and show me how it fits. I’ll miss watching Dad blow the candles out on his cake, with the help of his grandkids, then reaching for a lighter to relight them when one child says they didn’t get to partake. I’ll especially miss Dad’s hearty laugh, how he would remove his baseball hat and scratch his head, and how he would sneak himself and grandkids an ice cream sandwich from the freezer. Somehow Dad always had seconds, but justified it by saying with a smile, ‘they’re small.’

We may not be celebrating with candles this year, Dad, but I will still celebrate having had you in my life.

You made it brighter, candles or not.