It was quite cold and the roof was covered in snow, as I carefully made my way towards Gary’s perch at the front of The House on the Hill.
“I wanted to be closer to Heaven,” I explained to my loyal guardian, who watched over me and my home regardless of the weather.
“That still doesn’t answer my question,” Gary persisted as he turned to face me, and spread his mighty wings to shield me from the harsh Winter wind.
“Today is my Dad’s birthday,” I mumbled.
It didn’t matter that I barely spoke above a whisper because Gargoyles have a keen sense of hearing. Just one of the traits that makes them the perfect creatures to watch over us.
“Happy Birthday in Heaven, Big Austin!” Gary declared.
That made me smile. Even though I stood 6’3″, I would be forever thought of as Little Austin in my family. The man I eventually grew to tower over, the one who’d given me his name, would always be Big Austin.
I pulled several hideous ties out of my jacket pocket and held them up for Gary to see. As expected, my Gargoyle cringed.
“Your father had a peculiar sense of fashion,” he said with a chuckle. “I find your childhood photos to be hilarious, and I think you should publish them in a book entitled How Not To Dress Your Child. It would be a novelty hit, and you could probably live off the royalties.”
I had to laugh. Dear Old Dad, as he loved to be called, had dressed my little sister and I in the ugliest outfits.
“I still think he dressed us like that to meet women,” I replied with a grin fighting to find a place on my sad face. “He probably hoped some woman would take pity on us and marry him just to dress us properly. I would not put it past him!”
I laughed at my ridiculous Deep Thoughts. I needed that.
My Dad died when I was 19, which means I’ve been alive longer without him in my life than with him in it. Regardless of the numbers, I still miss him every day and long to hear his distinctive laugh whenever I need to improve my mood.
“I so badly wish I had his sunny disposition,” I confessed as I shoved the ties back into my pocket and stared up at the starry sky. “I’m such a miserable grump, and he was the most easy going person I’ve ever met. He was never in a bad mood, he could make any stranger feel like an old friend, and he was always smiling. How am I his son?”
I used my boots to clear a place in the snow and then sat down on the roof.
Gary hopped down off his perch and stood over me, still using his wings to protect me from the frozen February winds.
“You might not be the happiest guy on earth, but you certainly have your father’s gift for making people smile and putting them at ease,” my Gargoyle assured me. “He did it face to face, but you do it through your writing. You are definitely your father’s son.”
“You honor your hero every day by living your life, chasing your dream to be a writer, and rooting for the Yankees and Notre Dame,” Gary reminded me.
Thankfully, I had inherited my Dad’s love of those two teams rather than his incredible lack of fashion sense.
“Happy Birthday, Dad!” I shouted up at the stars because I knew Big Austin was up in Heaven, probably making everyone laugh at his birthday party.
My father, who art in Heaven, thank you for giving me your name…