Today is my dad's birthday.
He turns 56.
I don't know the whole, smooth story of his life from start to finish; I guess because it was a jumbled and sideways journey from the beginning. But I know some things.
I know he was born on an Air Force base in Japan, and he was the third child, out of what would eventually become five children.
The first boy.
I know he had thick, curly, black hair as a baby, and that my Nana used to dress him up in little girl's dresses because she said his thick eyelashes and dimples made him pretty.
I know that he had dog tags from the time he was born that said who he belonged to, that he was Catholic, and his father's rank and his blood type.
I know his family moved back to New York not long after he turned two, and his brother Mark was born there. Mark couldn't say Michael, so he called him Pants.
A nickname that stuck all the way up until Mark died when I was 14.
I know that my dad had it hard growing up. They were wealthy, and then they were poor, and then they were wealthy again. His mom was always sick. He was abused. His dad was indifferent.
I know my dad left home when he was eleven years old, and never went back. He ran out the back door, hid in someone's carport behind their '65 Buick Skylark until he saw his mom drive by, on her way to my grandpa's service station to tell him their son had run away, and then he went to the elementary school and told the principal he wasn't going back home.
He lived in foster homes and on the streets and hitch-hiked around after that.
I know he met my brother's mom when he was only 20, and that he met my mother when he was 25, and that he always wanted a lot of kids.
I know he was always sick.
He was moody, sometimes indifferent and often hyper-critical and forever irresponsible.
When I was young he seemed like a rambler. A wheeler and a dealer and someone that would always be able to get by, even if only by the skin of his teeth.
He raised his kids in the backs of cars, in junk yards and occasionally in nice houses.
Nothing with him is permanent.
Nothing with him is stable.
Nothing with him is clear.
I know he probably did the best he could.
I know he's wounded.
After it's all said and done, I know he'll always be the first person I loved, the first person who broke my heart, the first person who taught me to survive.
He taught me that you can love someone, but not trust them.
Love someone but not be able to get close to them.
Love someone, but never be able to have them in your life.
In his own damaged and imperfect way, I know my father loves me.