Earlier this week, I told my beautiful bride, Malarie, that for the first time in my life, I wasn’t looking forward to celebrating my birthday.

I turn 54 today, but it’s my first birthday without my mother and daddy. We lost Mom on Jan. 23, and Dad passed away July 31. I won’t remember 2020 as my favorite year.

In my adult life, my parents typically gave me money or clothes as a birthday present. But since Malarie and I married in December 2012, the birthday presents from my parents sometimes consisted of tools, like a weed trimmer, a leaf blower and a small air pressure tank.

I used the weed trimmer and leaf blower while doing yard work on Labor Day. I also utilized a sprayer Dad gave me to battle against the fire ants in our yard, which seems to be the Sardis City headquarters for those pests.

Mom was in charge of buying birthday cards, and she always selected one for me that conveyed just what I needed at that birthday. I hope I saved the card my parents gave me last year. It never crossed my mind in September 2019 it would be the last one from them.

Pound cake has been my favorite dessert throughout my life. Mom baked a pound cake for my birthday all the way back to my childhood. Somewhere among the old photos at my parents’ home, there’s a few of me blowing out the candles on my pound cake. I need to find them and save them for one of my three children.

I’m thankful that I have Malarie, James, Brady and Maggie Jo, along with my brother, Jeff, to help commemorate my birthday. We’re going to eat lunch together Saturday, and I know Mom and Dad won’t be far from our thoughts.

My children don’t care how old I am, although James is starting to realize some of his friends have grandparents who are my age (and younger).

Last week, James told me he and his classmate, Melanie, were trying to guess the age of Jill Blackmon, their first-grade teacher. They didn’t figure out Mrs. Blackmon’s age, but James told Melanie my age.

“Her eyes got big like this,” James said, while mimicking Melanie’s reaction.

I started on the husband and fatherhood path much later than most men, but I wouldn’t trade it. The Lord has poured out His blessings on me, and celebrating with my family is the best birthday gift I could receive.        

Shannon J. Allen is sports editor for The Reporter. He can be reached at shannon.allen@sandmountainreporter.com.

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