Happy Birthday, Dad!


Our family celebrates birthdays with a cake and candles and a Happy Birthday song, even after our loved ones are no longer with us. Today’s post is a remembrance of my Dad and also my Mom for rearing me to an independent person who is capable of making her own life’s decisions.

It has been 27 years since my Dad died, but it seems only yesterday. It was at his urging that my sisters and I studied abroad. I chose Germany and spent almost three years in Heidelberg. When he asked me years later if sending me off to Germany had been a good thing in my life, I responded that it probably had been the best decision he and my mother could have made. Sending children off to college can be a bittersweet moment in the lives of parents. Sending children off to another country to study can prove daunting. I still recall the day I left the US and the envelope I was handed at the Colorado Springs airport as my parents bid me goodbye and wished me good luck. On the outside of the envelope in my father’s cursive writing were the words “do not open” until I was airborne.

What I found inside astonished me. There was a letter from the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg telling me that I had not been accepted since I did not yet have a BA degree. My parents trusted that I would figure things out on my own. The German system is vastly different from the US system. There were no advisors to assist. Fortunately, through mutual family friends, a young German student was the key to dealing with university bureaucracy. After being accepted to study based solely on my grades in German, I went on to obtain two degrees in Germany. This life’s lesson was a valuable one for me.

My parents had trusted me. As I reflect upon that today and remember my Dad standing next to me in the photo when I came back to Pueblo after my studies, I see in his eyes how very proud he was of my accomplishments, and of all of his daughters. My other sisters studied in Spain and Mexico and my mother joined them in Europe.

When I received my first Fulbright grant to be an exchange teacher in Germany in 1990, my parents were proud of the achievement. Again, my father withheld information until I was in Germany with my two children. In September of 1990, I received a letter in his cursive handwriting telling me he was dying of cancer.

Crowded into a telephone booth in the small German village where we lived, I tearfully spoke with him, and he was crying on the other end of the phone as well. He said not to come back to the US in the event he died but to stay in Germany. He knew I was inconsolable so he added that he would wait for me to return the following summer. My Dad died Oct. 18 less than one month after our phone conversation. As I had promised, we remained in Germany and had a special Memorial Mass at the local church which happened to be on World Sunday. We recited the Our Father in both German and in English and sang Amazing Grace because the German priest who officiated wanted to make it a special commemoration for me and my children to remember and honor my Dad.


Frozen Silence

Frost this morning
on the track
hides my tears.

Remembering him
this November morning
Gone some time now.

Miss him in this
Frozen silence.

Mom & Dad Niemczura CO 19860001

Gasthof Hirsch Schweindorf0001


This entry was posted in birthdays, Fulbright Teacher Exchange, Fulbrights to Germany, Heidelberg, study in Germany, World Sunday Mass and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Happy Birthday, Dad!

  1. Emily says:

    Grandpa was a wonderful man!! This post brought tears to my eyes. Wonderful story, poem and photos. Lots of love.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Emily, for your heartfelt comment. Remembering Grandpa, Dad, Brother, Uncle and Son also brings tears to my eyes. He was a special person who lives on through me and you and all of his family. Your comment is much appreciated as are you! 🙂


  2. Bel says:

    Happy Birthday to your Dad! Even if he is no longer with you I know he lives kn your heart. I will never forget my dad either, like you, i miss him every single day.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. A beautiful and touching post, Mary Ann. Thanks so much for sharing. Happy Birthday to Dad! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You can press a lot into a few words! Beautiful post. The memorial mass for your dad was very special.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Arno Bode,Cologne,Germany says:

    Liebe Mary Ann,
    ein faszinieredes liebevolles Bekenntnis zu deinem Vater und deiner Mutter.
    Bekanntlich wächst man im Leben an schwierigen Aufgaben.Der Verlust eines geliebten Menschen ist lange Zeit sehr schmerzlich.Aber im Gedenken ist man immer noch verbunden.Die guten Absichten deiner Eltern für ihre Kinder zeigen sich in deiner erfolgreichen Karriere. Dem Vernehmen nach lebst Du in ihrem Geiste und gibst deiner Familie Kraft ,Stärke und Liebe um ebenfalls erfolgreich in ihrem Leben zu bestehen. Du hast eine besondere Gabe mit ausgewählten Worten Gefühle zu vermitteln.
    Alles ,alles Liebe und Gute für die Zukunft wünscht Dir
    Dein Arno

    Liked by 2 people

    • Deine freundlichen Worte werden sehr geschätzt, Arno. Uns wurde beigebracht, unsere gottgegebenen Talente zu nutzen, um die Welt zu einem besseren Ort zu machen und anderen zu helfen. Beide meine Eltern waren begeisterte Leser und meine Mutter hatte einen ausgezeichneten Wortschatz in ihrem schriftlichen Ausdruck. Irgendwie gehen mir die Worte durch den Kopf und ich lege sie in Gedichtform nieder. Ich bin froh, dass ich meine Gefühle anderen schriftlich mitteilen kann. Nochmals vielen Dank für einen solch aufschlussreichen Kommentar. Mögest du einen gesegneten Sonntag und eine Woche vor dir haben. Deine Mary Ann 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a powerful message your father had for you when requesting you not open your rejection letter until you were on board the plane. Your parents really understood the power of independent thinking and the gift of hope.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Belated Happy Birthday to your dad, Ann! What a wonderful tribute and story! Truly remarkable!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Dr. Mary Ann, I’m speechless after reading this post, very much heart touching tribute to dad and every child must treat the parents so lovingly. I remembered my dad while reading and i miss him always and he is no more with us last 12 years but as you expressed its same i feel i lost him just now every time. Its not being emotional but the bond was such that always beyond words. I wish you more happiness and progress and im sure you make efforts to shine even when its snow fall. You are a valuable friend. Glad i can read this post early morning. Its 5 50 am and this made my day brighter also warmer already even its dark and cold out side. Wish your dad a happy birthday and a very special 2018 with lot of smiles, success and good health. Stay connected. Thanks to wordpress i can meet so many beautiful minds, souls with excellent heart.

    Respects and smile.



    Liked by 2 people

    • You have made my day with this comment. My Dad died during my first Fulbright Teacher Exchange Year in Germany but we spoke on the phone. Your kind words warmed my heart. Both my mother and father are in daily thoughts and prayers even though both are now deceased. My days of rising at 4 AM to leave at 6 AM for the drive to school where classes started at 7:30 AM are over. I love retirement without alarm clocks. WordPress is a great site, and I am glad you visited my site. Do come again soon and follow my life’s adventures! Blessings and peace in 2018. Dr. Mary Ann


  9. This was quite moving, tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing these poignant moments in time.

    Liked by 1 person

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