my dad

This year, the year I turned 40, my teeth went bad and I developed high blood pressure. I mean, yes, sure, teeth rot over time and blood pressure ratchets up with age and stress. I did not spend the last decade stewarding my body very well. The truth is probably more like: this year, the year I turned 40, I finally started going to the doctor regularly and being attentive to my aging self. But it sure feels like 40 arrived and my body summited the peak of vitality and immediately started going downhill.

I am a responsible, independent adult whose vocation involves caring for others all the time, and I mostly manage my life pretty well. But when things go wrong, my first instinct is still, usually, to call my parents. What a gift that I still can, that I still want to. In the middle of the teeth saga, after I’d gone to the endodontist and found out that one of my teeth couldn’t be saved and had to be pulled, I called my dad. I knew Dad went to the dentist a lot, that my dental genes were a straight chip off the old block, but I didn’t know, until I called him in a very, very anxious moment, that he had also had a run-in with the dental profession around age 40, endured a spate of fillings and root canals and extractions himself. “Oh yeah,” he said. “I did all that. You just gotta keep on top of it. Now I go to the periodontist and get the gum treatments, and it’s actually kind of pleasant and the doctor is my friend!”

The other week, when another doctor suggested that I might need to address my slowly rising blood pressure, I called my dad again. The blood pressure thing feels even more urgent than the teeth – harder to manage, for one, and you can’t just pull out your circulatory system like you can a rotten molar, for another. “Yep,” Dad said, “I’ve been taking blood pressure medication for almost 30 years! Started when I was right around your age.” Dang it, Dad. These genes are messing with my youth!

If you know my Dad, there’s a very good chance that you love him. He’s tall and friendly and always up for an adventure. He’s got a secret handshake that he perfected thirty years ago and people – especially young people; I watched my nephew launch into it when he saw Dad after his basketball game last month – STILL greet him with it. He’s funny and steady and a really good friend. When I asked the other day on Facebook what has given y’all hope this year, one of you answered by simply tagging my dad’s name in a comment.

And you know what? My dad gives me hope, too. Even in the midst of a pandemic, even during a weird pandemic retirement, even through a prolonged season of grief, he still finds ways to connect with people and enjoy life. My friend Ann said a few months ago that my grandparents had somehow figured out how to live their best lives in the way that made so many other lives better all at the same time, and that is how Dad lives, too. I hope I can figure out how to carry on the family tradition. I hope that disposition of enjoyment and connection flows through my genes just as definitively as bad teeth and high blood pressure.

Today is Dad’s 65th birthday, and while I think he might be having trouble believing he’s that old, I’m pretty sure he’s going to find a way to enjoy it, certain that he’ll still be cracking jokes and sharing secret handshakes, whatever this new year may bring.

Happy birthday, Dad! Love you lots.


  1. Phil Peters · December 17

    Yes, Rob the best. A life long friend…


  2. Robert Cassell · December 17

    Love ya B more than you know❤️❤️❤️
    Appreciate the very kind comments and I am grateful to carryon the family traditions , sorry you are the recipient of some of the challenging genetics. Sometimes it’s just about showing up and working to find that smile !!!


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