Today my Papi turns 70.

Last night, we celebrated with family in a German restaurant in an old house. Pictures of his life filled the room. The scent of daphne — his favorite smell in the world — filled the air.

Brightly-colored drawings of Opa by his grandchildren lovingly held the space in front of him. Each one accompanied by their own words:

“My Opa is fun.”

“My Opa is awesome.”

“I like to play at the park with Opa.”

“My Opa is funny.”

“My Opa is strong.”

We laughed at Papi’s old photos. The size of that long-ago mustache and how much he loved that soft Chuck E. Cheese t-shirt. We noticed how much the grandchildren looked like him in various seasons of life.

I saw for the first time his senior picture. He was just 16, and darling.

We presented Papi with a book of memories — words of loving appreciation, filled by friends and family.

His sister and brother shared pages of childhood stories my sister and I never knew.

Early in the evening, I carried a vase of daphne outside to rescue a spider that sat on one of the leaves. Just as Papi taught us.

Papi always demonstrated that how we care for small things matters. How we tend to and appreciate the life we’re given matters.

“If you don’t have something you’re passionate about,” my papa has often said, “what do you have to live for?”

Last night, Papi’s impassioned life filled the room, mingling with the scent of those spring blooms.

And the memories.

Stories.

Laughter.

Joyful squeezes of daughters and grandchildren.

Wide-smiling photos at the altar, at the park, in his office, daughters by his sides, holding his trusty firetruck.

Thanks and tears rimming hazel eyes.

We love you so much, Papi. Happy birthday, and many more.

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