This would be the second in a series of milestones. It was ten years ago today that I helped celebrate my father's sixty-first birthday. He had flown out to visit my wife and I - still somewhat freshly married. He came with his friend Leonard, a pilot of a small plane and one of the heartiest handshakes on the planet. We drove up to Auburn to meet them, and stayed the weekend at a friend's house.
The year before, on a similar trip, we had attended the Mandarin Orange festival, beginning with the traditional Pancake Breakfast. This time I was completely preoccupied with the notion of getting Bruce Springsteen tickets. I had figured that buying tickets in a small town like Auburn would almost assure me of getting first choice at the local outlet. We left my father at the house and went out to the only place in town that sold concert tickets: Gottschalks department store.
To make a trivial story short, we ended up being third in line and managed to get some decent seats for both shows at the Berkeley Community Theater. When we got back to the house, my dad was as enthusiastic as he needed to be about our purchase, and we bid farewell to my wife who had a prior engagement for Saturday evening. I spent the rest of the day with my father. I showed him the script that I had written. We went for a run. We watched the CU Buffaloes beat the Kansas State Wildcats. We had a nice dinner.
As it got later, my father was sitting in front of the television, waiting for the weather to come on. Watching the weather made sense out of his day. Anyone who knew my father knows that he very rarely watched the weather. He was usually sound asleep, sawing logs before the local forecast. On this particular evening, I decided against trying to keep him up. Instead, when he was sound asleep, I switched the channel to a Korean news broadcast and went off to bed myself. About an hour later, I heard some rumbling and snorting from the other room as my father came awake to the foreign sounds of the weather - in Korean.
The next morning we had a way-too-much-food breakfast and then went to the airport with Leonard, where we got into his plane and made the short hop from Auburn to Oakland. I told my father goodbye there, at the Oakland Airport. I gave him a hug. I'm glad about that. He gave great hugs. I drove home with my wife and he and Leonard got back in the plane to fly back to Colorado, with a stop in Reno.
The next night when I came home from work, my wife was sitting on the front steps of our apartment building, waiting for me. She told me there had been an accident. Leonard's plane had caught a phone line on the way into the airport in Colorado. They were almost home. There was a fire and my father was burned very badly. He never recovered. I'm starting to.
Donald Caven gave me his love and his hairline, his warmth and his smile, and some of the worst jokes you'd ever care to hear. Donald Caven was my father and I miss him very much. Happy Birthday, Dad.