July 10, 1937 – for Darhl C. Cowden

In February two years ago, my dad passed away. June and July are always a little odd now, in particular Father’s Day and today, July 10th – Dad’s birthday. I usually stop by the cemetery (just a few streets down from home) and spend some time in a “visit”, clean off the stone, straighten the flag and flowers, water the grass if it looks parched. Today he would have been 72, having been born in 1937. Part of my brain still reflexively thinks, “I need to get a cake and a present.”

Not that he didn’t have his problems, but he was a great dad and if I say so myself, he did a fabulous job of raising my sister and I along with our mom.

He was a blast when we were little, and then he took us all over the world after his oil company job moved us to Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Western Europe and Kenya and Egypt in Africa – dreams fulfilled to be in some of those places. I’m a history buff, so it meant a lot to stand in the Parthenon in Greece, the Roman Coliseum, and among the pyramids of Giza. We toured Munich, and visited London and Amsterdam multiple times (they were the stops on flights to and from Saudi Arabia), as well as Switzerland, and others. We visited Cowden England, and ate lunch in a pub named after us.

One of the best adventures was going to Exeter, England and learning how to sail. We went all up and down the English and French coasts, discovering wonderful towns, beautiful little islands, and meeting some of the best people in the world. I even got to explore the ruins of a once grand villa on the French coast that had been shelled in World War II! What was left of it (mostly just some walls) was still riddled with bullet holes.

Now, I have to wonder if I’m a history buff because of these travels? Probably so.

One of my guilty pleasures, watching “Dancing with the Stars” was started because my dad was watching it.

He loved Corvettes, movies (especially James Bond), and listening to the Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffet. His enjoyment of “Cast in Bronze” (the Carillon at the Texas Renaissance Festival) got us all to fall in love with that humbling, soaring music. He loved Country, too, and 50s rock and roll, and the tales of King Arthur.

Because of my parents, I have an abiding love for broadway musicals, especially “Camelot”, and Folk music like Peter, Paul and Mary, and the Kingston Trio.

I made a cloak for him for the Renaissance Fair so he could look like Richard Burton’s King Arthur, and he bought a lovely gown so my mom could be his queen.

At his funeral, they had the Air Force honor guard there, with a rare bugler to play “Taps” live. Even now, I can hear it, as they folded the flag and handed it to my mother, and everyone there who had either served or ever loved someone who had, ended up in tears.

His magnificent RC model airplanes still hang on display in the family garage where they were built. He was a pilot in California when I was a baby, and a Sheriff, too. He used to make his own bullets, and he taught me how to shoot a handgun. Even now, I follow in his footsteps with my job in Records Management (the same job he did in Saudi for Bechtel and then later for Shell).

And now it’s July 10 again, and memories, happy and sad, crowd in. I gave him a song, a sort of dedication: “I Am A Town” by Mary Chapin Carpenter, and it always makes me cry. All I have left to say is this:

Happy Birthday, Dad. We love you, and we miss you.

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