Happy Birthday to Mayor Honea

dad, birthday, grandpaToday my father turns old. He knows it. I know it. The server at Cracker Barrel, who doesn’t raise an eyebrow when my dad orders fried stuff off the senior menu, knows it. There are no secrets here.

However, my dad is living proof that you are only as old as you feel. Sure, he complains about technology as much as the next stereotype, but aside from that he is doing pretty well. He hikes miles in the Arizona sun and claims to enjoy it, and he walks miles each night through the town that he was raised in—a town he now serves as mayor, and he says he enjoys that, too.

He is early to rise, early to bed, and he works hard every hour that falls between.

Yes, we really are related.

My father and I are very close and get along swimmingly as long as we aren’t discussing politics. He’s a conservative guy, although he is fairly open-minded on a number of social issues, which is nice, and I’m so far to the left that I finally just fell out of Arizona and landed soundly in the sands of Los Angeles. We generally try to meet in the middle—somewhere around Blythe.

If you really want to know what kind of man my father is just talk to someone that knows him. People are quick to shower unsolicited praise upon him with generous sincerity. It embarrasses him and it makes me swell up like a million bucks.

This past February he lost his wife of many years, Jan Lawson Honea, to cancer. It was only a short time after he had lost his mother, whom he cared for both night and day, to a cancer of her own. He took both losses with strength, grace, and a humility that bends deeply but never breaks. It broke me right in the heart.

These days he cares for the town that elected him and his father that relies on him. He carries heavy burdens and he wears them lightly.

There was a time when our family got together for every birthday, whether it was a cousin, aunt, uncle, or grandparent, but the years haven’t been kind to those bonds and traditions, and the literal distance between us has made such things all the harder.

That doesn’t mean the birthday wishes aren’t there for the giving. That is why, when my boys asked if they could come on the site to tell everyone about Grandpa Honea, I grabbed the camera and started rolling. His grandsons love him dearly, and it is a feeling more than mutual. But don’t take my word for it:

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