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“I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are evil.”
-J. R.R. Tolkien

You should know that I wrote a different letter to you this year. It was dark and angry. I couldn't figure out what I wanted to say and a bunch of bad stuff came out. It didn't seem fitting for a birthday letter, so I'm trying again.

Over the weekend, I read a paper I wrote for college about my first job, which reminded me of the time you took me on the roller coaster ride, Fire in the Hole. I was disappointed because me and my cousin always wanted to ride together, but we were too short to ride without an adult sitting beside us. I had you.

If I'd ever ridden it before, I couldn't remember then and can't now. I was scared. It was indoors, dark inside, and someone said there were men wearing masks. You know how scared I was of masks (I still am a little bit). You held my hand and told me there wasn't anything to be afraid of, it was all fake and you were right there. So when it was our turn to get on the ride, I just got into the seat and waited.

It was dark and there were creepy coyote calls and owls hooting, but I just sat as close to you as I could get and watched as the train carried us deeper into the ride. I can now tell you that Area 2 is where I have my strongest memory. Red Flanders is hanging out of a burning building in his red flannel underwear, telling his wife he can't put his pants on because:

Sadie: Red Flanders, you get back in here and put on some pants!
Red: Sadie, I ain't got no pants no more, the dang Baldknobbers stole 'em!
Sadie: Stole 'em? What in the  Sam Hill would they want with your pants?
Red: Probably for the gold in the pockets.

We laughed at what was practically a man's butt hanging out of a window, because butt jokes are awesome when you're a little kid. Okay, maybe they're still awesome when you're an adult.

The gunfire and darkness and the flaming bridge that looks like it's falling in on you worried me, but you held on and by the time we reached the big splash of water at the end, I wasn't scared anymore.

That's why I liked the idea of working on that ride when I applied there. It reminded me of you. Every walk-through I did in the early mornings, every ride-through reminded me of us laughing at Red.

You always did that. Somehow you took the fear out of things and figured out how to make me laugh. God, even before your viewing, when we watched the video they made using pictures of you, there was the one of you as a little kid with your cowlick standing straight up as usual, and I couldn't help it. It was a wet laugh, that's true, kind of like how this letter would be pretty soggy right now if it wasn't on a computer, but you did it again.

I'm left to my imagination about whether that cowlick would still exist, because you had a pretty good bald spot going on. Sadly, my imagination is lacking a lot and my jaw hurts from clenching it when I try to imagine your hair turning completely silver. It's hard to believe it's been over 10 years since I said 'Happy birthday' to you. Still hard to believe time keeps rushing forward and all I have left are photographs, memories and tears that never seem to dry up completely.

Happy birthday, Daddy. I miss you.
Robert L. Cox

Great-grandma Becky and Dad when he was a baby.