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This Old Man

I apologize for being away from the keys most of the day. Today is my 50th birthday. I drove up to the country to have lunch with my mother. We reminisced about the old days. “Lord, but you had a big head,” she said. The really old days.

She presented me with a present she has been working diligently on for over two years: a hand-stitched quilt incorporating my late father’s old work shirts, which he selected himself. The center panel, shown above, was lettered by him at the start of the project, months before he died. That’s his handwriting, is what I’m saying, rendered in stitches by my mother.

Look at the level of detail in her work:

Every single stitch, put there by hand! And here’s the thing: she has arthritis, which means that she labored through pain. For over two years! Stitching a quilt big enough to cover a bed.

It’s an heirloom, of course, and I love it with all my heart. What a sweet, kind, generous mother I have. She gave me life. I am knitted together from scraps of her and him. And now I have this quilt forever.

Christmas 2013

Julie and the kids gave me some nice presents too, but this one just knocked me flat and made me cry. It’s a watercolor of my faithful friend Roscoe:

I apologize for the glare in the photo. I couldn’t figure out how to get the reflection off of the glass (the painting has been framed). The artist is our friend Susan Woodard Kelly, [1] whoΒ paints all kinds of things, including pets. When I took the wrapping off and saw the image, I was looking at Roscoe. I mean, this is my dog!Β I don’t know how Susan captured his expression, but she did. It’s all in the eyes. Oh, I was so happy! I cried like a baby. If you love your dog, you need to click on that link to Susan’s name, and commission a watercolor. She did that one from a photo of Roscoe. That too is an heirloom.

It was a happy birthday. It is still going to be a happy birthday. For dinner, we’re having sushi, vintage Champagne, and Chantilly berry cake.

I would like to read an open thread here from readers talking about how they met their true love. No politics, no culture war — just tell your love story. Now, I’m going out to get the sushi, and I will try not to break my hip. Fifty! Lord have mercy. Grateful, is what I am. Grateful.

UPDATE: Best dog ever. Don’t you dare contradict me:

UPDATE.2: View from your birthday table:

99 Comments (Open | Close)

99 Comments To "This Old Man"

#1 Comment By Susan On February 14, 2017 @ 10:52 pm

Happy birthday, Rod. Yes, family quilts are special. So are dog portraits.

I’m from Minnesota, my husband is from Georgia and we met in Germany in 1976 when we were both in the Army. He was an officer and I was enlisted and we were not supposed to “fraternize” so I like to joke that we never went on a date before we were married. Our 39th anniversary was Feb 11.

#2 Comment By James C On February 14, 2017 @ 11:07 pm

Happy birthday!—may the afterglow of blessings stay with you long after.

The quilt—amazing. Think of it: Over the past two years, as you went through moments good and bad, the ups and downs of life, somebody was slowly, devotedly creating something beautiful with thoughts of love for you. What a gift!

#3 Comment By Tar Heel Blues On February 14, 2017 @ 11:11 pm

Happy birthday, brother. You’ve made me angry on many days, laugh on some others, but always have made me think. May God grant you many years.

#4 Comment By Eric V Hutchins On February 14, 2017 @ 11:11 pm

Happy birthday, young man. Keep up the good work. Faithful readers, left, right, and center, depend upon you to keep a very important conversation going. Fifty years ago, I started my freshman year at U.C. Berkeley. One day I’ll tell you what it was really like.

#5 Comment By John Burzynski On February 14, 2017 @ 11:13 pm

Happy birthday! I am close to 49, and in many ways a kindred spirit of yours, from afar. Blessings for many more happy years!

#6 Comment By John Burzynski On February 14, 2017 @ 11:16 pm

Damned ‘enter’ key…..my wife and I met 29 years ago while employed at the same part time job; I brought her back to the Church, and she brought me back to a faith in love and humanity. I wasn’t even old enough to legally drink at my own wedding!

#7 Comment By Richard Parker On February 14, 2017 @ 11:26 pm

Fair Winds…

#8 Comment By Ruth On February 14, 2017 @ 11:35 pm

Happy 50th
I met the love of my life first day of college. Neither of us had had a serious relationship previously. We had the same career goals, same hobbies, same interests, same deep faith…after 30 years and 3 kids we laugh about how we should have married our opposite. When you have the same strengths, you have the same weaknesses. But it works for us. πŸ™‚

#9 Comment By Jons On February 14, 2017 @ 11:44 pm

Hbd. But apologies to Roscoe. He looks like his human.

#10 Comment By Jen On February 15, 2017 @ 12:37 am

I truly wish you a happy birthday, Rod, but your post made me think of one of my worst memories of my mom.

She had started an old-fashioned patchwork quilt for me when I was in high school. When I was in my twenties and returned from living abroad, I asked what happened to that quilt. She said that there was “no point” in finishing the quilt since I clearly wasn’t ever going to get married. (I was only 28 when she said this.)

My mom has since passed away, and I have no idea what happened to that quilt. All I know is that I apparently wasn’t worthy of an heirloom because I’m single.

I truly envy those of you who have family heirlooms to cherish, and I hope that you parents include all of your children, married or single, when you pass on your family possessions.

#11 Comment By Gentillylace On February 15, 2017 @ 1:31 am

I’m glad that you had an excellent birthday, Rod. Have a wonderful year, God willing! πŸ™‚

#12 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On February 15, 2017 @ 1:37 am

Happy Birthday!
May God bless you and your wonderful family with many years of happiness!

#13 Comment By The Sicilian Woman On February 15, 2017 @ 1:47 am

Happy 50th, Rod! What an amazing gift from your parents.

I am so enjoying the stories being shared.

#14 Comment By Erin Manning On February 15, 2017 @ 2:48 am

Happy (belated) birthday, Rod! It sounds like it was wonderful and what an amazing gift your mother gave you. Roscoe is adorable and quite portrait-worthy, too.

As for how I met Thad…well, I probably can’t improve on a birthday post I wrote for him nearly nine years ago. Back then I was still using the pseudonym “Red Cardigan” as my identity on the blog, so “Mr. C” is, of course, really “Mr. M.” πŸ™‚ It’s linked below, if Rod doesn’t mind:


#15 Comment By zeno On February 15, 2017 @ 3:29 am

Happy 50! Be there in a minute and a half.

We faintly knew each other, from opposite sides of a large herd of friends.
On Follie Day, on the Brooklyn waterfront, a mime brass band from Montreal called a silent waltz. We partnered. Something was communicated in those 90 seconds.
9 months later, first kiss.
Together 7 years and counting.

#16 Comment By AnnaH On February 15, 2017 @ 4:09 am

My grandma took my seriously handicapped uncle to the school where my mother-in-law used to teach handicapped kids (this was 40 years ago). Then my granny and his mum developped a really great friendship. Plus there were other ties between my family and his. We were even in a youth camp together around the age of 14 – neither of us remembers the other from the time. Anyway, fast forward 14 years. I was wandering the streets of Budapest with a friend on a lovely summer night when we bumped into him and his friends. My friend is vaguely familiar with pretty much everyone, so we stopped to talk and then eventually sat down together for a few drinks. The only thing I remember about him is that he he took out a book by Sartre from his bag and put it under the table leg so that it wouldn’t tilt. I found it really funny. He says he was smitten right away. Anyway, he wrote me the following day, but an eventual date materialised only 8 months later (he was abroad, I was with someone else). Something just clicked then (although he was an utterly stereotypical bad boy, I was petrified) and we have been together for (drum roll….) three years. Married for a year and the family is expanding. Onto another fifty!!!

On a different note, I was wondering if you consider your Valentine’s day birthday something to behold Rod. I mean, the symbolism is nice. πŸ™‚

#17 Comment By BlairBurton On February 15, 2017 @ 7:09 am

Happy Birthday, Rod. And your Roscoe looks so much my dear Rags, gone these many years, that I have tears in my eyes. Cherish him.

#18 Comment By David from Austin On February 15, 2017 @ 7:48 am

Happy Birthday Rod! What a blessed man you are and a blessing to all your faithful readers. And no worries, you are still young. When I crossed the 60 threshold, it became inescapable: I’m elderly!

#19 Comment By Tom G On February 15, 2017 @ 8:04 am

Happy Birthday! If your semi-goal is to live to 100, you’re halfway there (mine is); last July I turned 60.

In a premature mid-life crisis I left California and Sili Valli, to travel the world meeting other Free Marketeers. I become an economic advisor to the Christian Democratic Prime Minister of Slovakia in ’91, just after the ’89 Velvet Revolution. Another advisor, of Church-State relations, was at the reception at the opening of the Catholic Chapel inside the Office of the Government building. (It had been closed and used as storage by the commies).

This advisor had 3 of his 4 daughters attend, since they spoke English (and most external advisors didn’t speak Slovak). and his second daughter became my Slovak language teacher; and 3 years later my wife (over 22 years ago). We have 4 kids, and go regularly to Church (mostly in Slovak)

She has run for national parliament as a Christian Democrat (KDH), and is active in the Christian pro-life movement. She’s somewhat likely to get in at the next election, tho never certain. She was among the activists who succeeded in getting marriage defined as between man & woman into the Slovak Constitution, which the EU is not happy with.

I haven’t yet converted from Episcopalian to Catholic, but it’s on my mind.

With a lovely wife, inside and out, plus her great family, I don’t miss the fractured families of CA which I grew up with. Great wife dominates great weather; and everything else I can think of.

#20 Comment By Thrice A Viking On February 15, 2017 @ 8:26 am

Happy Birthday, Rod. Quite a milestone. Of course, not everyone likes that sort of thing. When my mom told my dad on his fiftieth, “Just think, Norm, you’ve lived a half-century!”, he told her to shut up. BTW, I reached 64 last month – or, Jack Benny-style, my 26th 39th birthday.

#21 Comment By Pete S On February 15, 2017 @ 8:34 am

Happy Birthday! I will be joining you at 50 in a few months.

I met my wife through work, we both worked (and still work) at the same large company. A big group of coworkers took me out for my 30th birthday celebration. Some of them were trying to set me up with another person that day, but the only woman I noticed was someone from another shift who I had barely met. Six months later we were engaged, we were married the day after I turned 31.

#22 Comment By Pacopond On February 15, 2017 @ 8:53 am

Plato said 50 was the age when a man should start studying philosophy. You’re precocious, I reckon.

I was in an online cafe in London, freshly divorced, and surfing a free dating site. I contacted a woman back in Austin, and we wrote back and forth. On my return we met during the day at a restaurant near Town Lake. The first thing that struck me was her eyes. The next, that she was young, 13 years younger than me, and still well on the sunny side of 40.

We dated for a year, broke up, wove in and out of each other’s lives, became best friends, exchanged countless online messages, rode bikes together.

Eleven years after meeting, we married. It’s been great.

Helen of Joy, a Valentine sonnet

I write you like I ride a mountain bike
To some heroic road-test rendezvous;
I push my heart; you pedal where you like,
The distant summits shimmer in your view.
Hell on wheels, rolling down the slopes,
These are the years we together spend
As gradients of time and spinning spokes
Resolving each to its requited end.
A face that launched a thousand shiny bikes,
A stallion white, outside the gates of Troy;
The ancient winds, the future’s trails and hikes,
Your name an epithet that rhymes with joy.

To write in verse, an easy thing to do.
But difficult, compared to loving you.

#23 Comment By Priest Raphael On February 15, 2017 @ 9:02 am

Welcome to 50! The water is fine. Many years, Rod!

#24 Comment By John On February 15, 2017 @ 9:09 am

Happy belated. And next time don’t apologize. You deserve downtime on your birthday.

#25 Comment By pbnelson On February 15, 2017 @ 9:15 am

Happy birthday!

#26 Comment By ginger On February 15, 2017 @ 9:47 am

Belated Happy Birthday, Rod! Thank you for hosting the most interesting blog on the internet.

Our love story…it’s not at all about when or how we met (I barely remember it), but about all the years since, in which this man has been my absolute rock through the good times and the bad. Life with him has been joy, and the thought of losing him fills me with dread and terror.

Started dating 27 years ago this week, married for 25. The yoke is easy, and the burden light when you marry your best friend. Blessed doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel.

#27 Comment By sigaliris On February 15, 2017 @ 9:52 am

Happy birthday, Rod! That quilt is a work of art, with love in every stitch.

I was seventeen, attending my first college class–the Great Books sectional. I was very shy. I sat near the back, over on the side, and watched the other students come into the room. A certain young man entered, and my heart said “Oh boy–THAT one!” Everything about him seemed just right to me. He had blue eyes, and the sunniest, most wonderful smile. But I was sure someone like that would never be interested in someone like me.

Imagine my surprise when he ignored the seats at the front of the room and wended his way through rows of desks to sit down right next to me. I was too shy to talk to him, and focused on taking notes. He was intrigued by my fountain pen and green ink, and the fact that I was making side notes in Elvish runes, which I had taught myself out of the appendices at the back of “The Lord of the Rings.” Yes, I was an ubernerd before nerds officially existed.

I gave him every opportunity to depart, but he followed me around, to our Great Books lecture and then our History 101 section. After my long distance high school boyfriend dumped me, I stopped trying to evade him. I pretended that his dorm was on my way home so I could accompany him as far as the corner after class.

On the last day of classes before the Christmas break, we walked to his dorm and stood on the corner in the cold wind for a long time. Finally I gave up. “I guess he just doesn’t like me that much,” I thought. “He’ll go home for Christmas and who knows if I’ll even see him next year.” As I turned to go, I heard a little throat-clearing noise, and whipped around at high speed. “Yes?” I said. “Um–would you like to . . . go to the movies or something?” “Yes, I would,” I replied demurely.

We had three dates before Christmas: seeing “Elvira Madigan”–not the best movie for a first date!–a reparatory hamburger that I cooked for him myself at my parents’ house, and Christmas caroling with a group from the Newman Center. Drinking hot cocoa in the dorm lounge afterwards, he put Simon and Garfunkel’s “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” on the stereo, and confessed he was in love with me. I just kept saying yes to things. Our forty-sixth anniversary is coming up in May. His smile is still the most beautiful thing to me.

#28 Comment By Rich Kennedy On February 15, 2017 @ 9:57 am

Tangential to the Singles group at the evangelical church I was attending in ’86. A woman in the group invited me for coffee at her place after evening service. At the house, while she was getting coffee and stuff ready, her roommate came in to say “hi”. We got to talking. I was a serious film buff back then. I was knocked off my feet by this nurse who was quite knowledgeable of the premier German directors of the ’70’s and ’80’s. We talked all night, both of us impressed with the conversation, but I was out of her league. Turns out, she had taken German film courses while in Nursing School for language credit. Fassbinder and Wenders without subtitles! Wow.

It took years of campaigning against others in that group aith better prospects than I, but she was the only woman I’D fell in love with who I knew whow was “The Right One” from almost the beginning (other things, not just the art film thing).

THREE years later, we were married, two days before my birthday. Best birthday gift EVER. Still together even though both of us are starting to fall apart physically.

Belated Happy Birthday and St. Valentine’s.

#29 Comment By Bowl of Petunias On February 15, 2017 @ 10:01 am

Happy belated birthday, Rod. My own is this Friday, and our wedding anniversary is March 18th. It was originally supposed to be right on St. Paddy’s day, but it was more convenient for all the relatives to have it the next day, so that’s what we did. Met each other in college, long distance relationship after my graduation, then he transferred partly to be closer to me, then we married in 2000. Five kids later and 17 years, coming up.

Chinese food for your birthday? Wish I was there.

That is an amazing quilt your mom made.

Of course your dog is the best! (Aren’t they always?)

#30 Comment By Caroline Nina in DC On February 15, 2017 @ 10:09 am

Happy birthday and Chronia polla!

My husband and I met when we were working in different divisions of the same media company. He was too shy to ask me out, and one of his colleagues came and said he was sick of hearing about me, and would I just go out with the guy?

In a year and a half, we were married.

#31 Comment By pinkjohn On February 15, 2017 @ 10:28 am

Happy Birthday Youngster! (I’ll be 55 this weekend, so “GET OFF MY LAWN!” Thanks for this beautiful post. Have a blessed year!

#32 Comment By ginger On February 15, 2017 @ 10:36 am


“We met at my trial. He was a juror. I was acquitted.”

In my book, this wins the thread and blows all the other stories right out of the water. Love it.

#33 Comment By The Wet One On February 15, 2017 @ 10:42 am

Happy Birthday Rod!

The big 5-0 eh?

Very nice.

May you enjoy a great great many more.

#34 Comment By Caroline Nina in DC On February 15, 2017 @ 10:47 am

Pinkjohn, I am so glad you are back. I missed your comments.

#35 Comment By Nancy E. Head On February 15, 2017 @ 10:50 am

My husband and I met when he was doing the weather reports for our Pennsylvania radio station. He was in Massachusetts and phoned in twice a day. I was a news reporter and answered the phone once a day. It was a winding journey that resulted in God providing him with a job one hour from where I lived. We still live there. 21 years.

#36 Comment By Bob Taylor On February 15, 2017 @ 10:52 am

Belated Happy Birthday, Rod. I recommend you immediately to all new acquaintances, and certainly to friends, as the one indispensable columnist. As for true love, a lifetime’s war against injury has thus far prevented that happy possibility. My problem is that I’m cursed with a sense of responsibility and don’t meet rich women.

#37 Comment By Emmie On February 15, 2017 @ 11:25 am

I love the quilt so much and your stories of your parents. The painting of your dog is amazing. Happy Birthday!

My husband and I met when I was 19 and he was 17. He had just become a ward of the state after being in foster care for 5 years. His living parents chose to put him in foster care:(

We dated for a while and then broke up and lost touch. It was pre internet and FB. He joined the Navy and I went to college.

I remember that he was the only person I ever felt completely safe around.

We reconnected 7 years ago and I am grateful every day. We both converted to the Orthodox church a couple of years ago.

#38 Comment By kijinshi On February 15, 2017 @ 12:10 pm

Happy love story time! πŸ˜€

I met him at a party – I certainly noticed him, and he me – but he is a shy man by nature, and another guy was more aggressive, and I ended up going out with that guy instead. Which is merely the beginning of the story.

Aggressive pursuit doesn’t mean a guy is better, or any good at all… that relationship ended a few months later with him cheating on me, which came as a relief. Also, the small business I was working for began doing shady things with their finances and using my lack of experience as an excuse (“We’re not paying you, vendor, because kijunshi did the finances wrong! She’s so sorry. We value your business.”) Still paying off my student loans, I desperately wanted to quit, but feared losing everything. And on top of everything else, bedbugs invaded my apartment, and the management tried to pin it on me to avoid expensive treatments. Suffering from anemia and working 80-hour weeks for a company that was abusing me, I felt that I had no room in my life for a relationship.

But the job’s sheer mean cheapness turned out to be a blessing – they were looking around for volunteers to supplement their (barely) paid labor, and my man happened to be between contracts that summer. So he ended up working by my side for three weeks straight. The more I got to know him, the more I liked him – quiet, dependable, smart and sensitive.

I’d been intentionally dating people for a while, following all “the rules”, which of course requires the man to make the first move, leaving the woman nothing but heroically passive-aggressive methods to prompt a man to make that move. I took them seriously, but that summer, I was just too tired to really care. I figured the worst that could happen if I just **asked** was that he would recoil, we’d never see each other again, and I’d have more time to try and extricate myself from my several simultaneous crises.

The day his volunteer stint wrapped up, I asked if he would like to go out for drinks – he said yes before I even finished the sentence! It turned out that he’d always struggled with making the first move, being naturally shy and also constantly second-guessing himself.

So of course on our first date I fell asleep on the table. After waking up and apologizing, I asked if maybe we could have a do-over?

On the second date, he had already assumed (reasonably) that I was too busy to be serious. So in order to take the pressure off of me, he started making conversation about some other woman he was interested in but getting mixed signals from (really). At first I was devastated, but then as I kept listening, I thought “This other girl’s a jerk… I CAN WIN.” So I made a bold ploy that very night – and whaddaya know, I DID win! πŸ™‚

And he was by my side for all that followed – showing up at 9 PM on a Monday night to aid my escape from bedbugs, which involved a moving truck, Vikane gas, and throwing away the very pair of shoes I used to walk out of there. He was the first by my side when my company laid me off in its death spiral, and helped me manage unemployment and getting a new, better job. And he drove across town to see me three times a week without fail, until we finally moved in together… a week before he was laid off again as well, and it was my turn to support him. I’ve never regretted a single bit of it. We’ve been together 5 years and married 2, and hope to have at least as many years as you and your wife! Happy birthday, Rod!

#39 Comment By QuinDuke On February 15, 2017 @ 12:10 pm

Happy Birthday Sir! I just turned 46, myself. 50 is coming up very soon, sooner than I think.

My first real job after graduating law school, I walk in and get introduced to everyone, including the future Mrs. Duke. I think “she’s cute” but out of my league.

I finagled break times to chat with her and would sit near her when groups of us from the office went out to eat for lunch. I thought, though, that she was interested in another of our coworkers, but it turned out she was faking that so a third coworker who was annoying her would go away. I finally just barely scraped up the courage to ask her out, to a summer production of “The Merry Wives of Windsor”. The rest is history; we’ve been married 16 years and have two great kids.

#40 Comment By Franklin Evans On February 15, 2017 @ 12:52 pm

Oh, Rod, my condolences. I’ll try to cheer you up. Ahem. πŸ˜‰

My elder sisters, being only three years of age apart, established the rules of Evans sibling rivalry upon the 25th birthday of S, for which the younger D gave her a birthday card that proudly proclaimed “Congratulations on completing your first quarter-century!” Three years later (their birthdays being in the same month), S retaliated appropriately and hilariously, and all five of us have never looked back. πŸ˜€

Just remember, my friend, that no matter how old you get, I will always be 11 years older.

On the days when you just can’t escape feeling older than your calendar age, remember Franklin’s Theory of Child Development: children learn by osmosis, sucking out small quantities of brain cells from their parents. The theory states that your true age can be better approximated by adding the ages of your children to your current age. Research shows that the maximum “add-on” for each child is 18, but I’ve not seen evidence to support that yet. Um, not sure if Julie should see that, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Finally, I offer you full partnership in our addendum to the (possibly apocryphal) Chinese proverb May you live in interesting times.

May you have children with strong egos. My daughter looks daggers at me whenever I say it in her hearing (she’s expecting #3 in early May), so I use it elsewhere as much as I can. My grandkids are wonderful, smart, and could easily outdo their mom in that area.

#41 Comment By Traveler On February 15, 2017 @ 1:51 pm

Happy belated birthday, Mr. Dreher! Indeed, the water isn’t bad once you’ve jumped in. Many happy returns of the day!

That quilt. I’m in awe. I can just imagine the seconds, minutes and hours spent on this work, done, more than likely prayerfully, with love and devotion and silent prayers for you in each and every single stitch. Simply beautiful.

Love that watercolour of your canine best friend too! Another love in one’s life.

As for the love of my life, had he not borrowed my Psych 101 text book during his first and my second year during undergrad, he never would have had a good excuse to drop by my house after we had met up at a New Year’s Eve party thrown by mutual friends from our senior year in high school during his second and my third year. That was December 31st, 1984. We’ve been hanging out, as the kids today might say, ever since.

We’re 15 days apart and this June we’ll be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary, he always older than I since we got married between our birthdays. It’s a bit of a family joke that there’s Christmas and then there’s June! Helped as well by the fact that our only child is also a June baby.

While February 14th is the day of love, in our home, June is the month of love.

The sushi dinner looks great! We had Thai!

God bless you and yours!

#42 Comment By BTRV On February 15, 2017 @ 3:02 pm

Happy Birthday! I am not far behind you. I will be 46 later this year. May you have many more birthdays and may God bless your years to come.

#43 Comment By pepperpot On February 15, 2017 @ 4:02 pm

I’m glad you b’day was a happy one…especially the time you spent with your mother. She comes through your writing as a shining star of comfort and contentment. Maybe at 50 you’ll take a leaf from her book!!

Met my husband when he came with a friend who was helping me move to a new apt. That was Saturday. Tuesday he called, and the rest is history. He went to Korea two weeks later, lots of correspondence included his proposal which I rec’d on Feb 14, 1951. He came home on Sept 2, and we were married on Nov 24, sixty-six years ago! We didn’t have children for 7 yrs and then 4 in 31 months (twins in the middle). At 89 I look at you as a relative youngster…may the wind always be at your back and the Lord always in your corner.

Looking forward to your pre-ordered Benedict Option. Have gifted your book about your sister to several folks, read your other books with great pleasure.

#44 Comment By Sir On February 15, 2017 @ 4:57 pm


I remember back in your NRO days when you were considering getting a dog. As I remember it, you took umbrage at people who described their dog as their best friend. Maybe you still do, but if you received a portrait of one of your human friends, would you have cried? I’m glad you have grown to appreciate doggy goodness in your life. I believe I have thanked God for my Labs (past and present) every day for the past 16 years.

BTW, I’m the guy who wrote you back then and warned you not to get a dog for your son (one at the time) that was too foo foo. ( [3])

[NFR: We did get a foo-foo dog back in 2006: a purebred German shepherd. She was a neurotic nightmare. We had inadvertently bought a Maserati, though what we really needed was a minivan. We got rid of her, and swore we wouldn’t get another dog. Then, a couple of months later, Roscoe wandered up on a playground where Julie was with the kids. He appeared to have been abused. He was an older puppy. She called me from the playground and said she was going to bring this poor dog home for the weekend, and then take him to the animal shelter. He was so pitiful, she said, and had been mistreated. OK, I said, but he’s definitely going back on Monday. Over a decade later, here he is, beloved and even adored. Hard to adequately explain the blessing that little mutt has been to our lives. Here’s something else. Shortly after he arrived in our house, he contracted parvo. He got it from sniffing dog turds when out for a walk. We had him scheduled to get his vaccinations, but didn’t realize that he was vulnerable to this virus, even from just walking outside. One morning before church, we had let him out back into the fenced yard to do his business, but he wouldn’t come when I called him. I found him lying behind the air conditioner, dying. Julie and the kids went on to church; I took him to the 24-hour vet. The vet told me that he had parvo, and that there was only a 50/50 chance he would make it, with treatment. The treatment would cost us $1,500, even if unsuccessful. What do you want to do? he asked. Fifteen hundred dollars! I thought about how Roscoe had been in our house for only a week or so, and we weren’t really attached to him yet. Julie and the kids were at church, and I could make the call to have him put down if I wanted to, and they didn’t have to know. I could just tell them that he didn’t make it, and that would be that. But I couldn’t do it. Just couldn’t do it. I told the vet to do the best he could to save the little dog. Well, obviously it worked. Best $1,500 I’ve ever spent. — RD]

#45 Comment By scotchmeg On February 15, 2017 @ 5:21 pm

Happy birthday, Rod! I have been reading your work since before you turned 40, so 50 is … not possible.

It is agreed that my husband and I met when I was 15 and he was 16. We do not agree upon whether we met in math class or English class during that sophomore year of high school. If I remember him from math class at all, it was as that gawky fellow who kept intercepting my glances at my friend on the other side of the room. Apparently, however, orange skirts are hard not to notice; my mother had not yet given me permission to wear slacks to school, so I compensated with bright skirts and paisley shirts. In French class, there were only three boys, so he was hard to miss. We got married nine years later, because it took us a while to grow up, and an extra year to land in the same place after college. Now it has been over 32 years, and I am still grateful to the French teacher who promised him a B- if he would take that class.

#46 Comment By grumpy realist On February 15, 2017 @ 7:04 pm

Happy Birthday! May you have many more!

(Speaking as someone a half-decade older, I think 50 is when most of us realize life is too short to worry about half of the things we worried about when we were younger.)

#47 Comment By Pilgrim On February 16, 2017 @ 1:33 am

A belated Happy Birthday, Rod! The quilt is a wonderful gift. God bless your mother. I hope she made it to New England in the fall. Glad you have such a great painting of your dog.

#48 Comment By Barbara On February 16, 2017 @ 2:53 pm

Happy belated birthday! It is so rare to receive a truly special gift. You were lucky and received two! The quilt is just unbelievably special! What a beautiful family heirloom! And the portrait of your most amazing dog – no words! You really are a blessed man! Thank you so much for imparting your wisdom to us all on a daily basis. I many times disagree, but I always learn and respect – a rare gift!

#49 Comment By Tracie On February 24, 2017 @ 11:09 pm

It’s your birthday and you give us the gift of not only sharing it with you–but to share a piece of our own love story.

I’m not good at making a long story short; however, I’ll try! We met in college–I was a Senior, he was a Freshman. I remember sitting in the back row, with my best friend, at the Fall Talent Show. This “incredibly confident” young man strolls to the baby grand in the front of the room, and makes that piano his own, a gorgeous rendition of Andre Crouch’s signature piece, “To God Be The Glory”.
I leaned over to my friend and whispered, “It’s too bad he’s a Freshman.”

The rest is history.