It's Dad's birthday today, six years since he died. I've been thinking about him all day. I miss him a lot, even after all these years. When special things happen, I wish he were here to celebrate with me. When I have a particularly bad day, I wish I could just sit with him and borrow his calm -- his presence in his later life was usually calm and steady.
He had such a great sense of humor, and a tender heart. The older he got the more tender he became; he would choke up at the oddest times. He had a lot of time to reflect in his last years and not all of the reflections were easy to take, I'm sure. When I would visit, I would sometimes look over at him, sitting in his favorite chair, and see the tears running down his face. He would just say, "I'm so sorry." I had long forgiven him and no apologies were needed, but he needed to say it.
He had a simple life that I often wish I had. In our later years, he was never too busy to be with us or with his grandkids. I wish he could see Jake play football and baseball and golf -- he would've loved to see how much Jake loves to golf.
There is so much more life that I wanted to share with him. I wasn't ready for him to leave us. I was sometimes such a selfish girl. I should've told him more how much I loved him. I should've served him more. I should've been more patient.
I sometimes wonder if God lets him see how much he's missed.
Today I was also thinking about what my sister wrote and read at his memorial service...
My dad wasn’t perfect. (Is anyone’s?). He made some mistakes. He made more good, I think.
While alive, we might remember the bigger mistakes more than we should. But family and friends are about forgiving, forgetting.
We remember the good things about people when they pass on.
And laugh about some of the faults and foibles.
We have been doing a lot of that for the last few days.
Dad died early Thursday morning.
My mom and her sister, when they finally retired, spent the rest of the early morning hours in the living room, talking.
My sister and I, along with our husbands and kids, arrived Thursday night. And we talked some more.
Dad’s brothers arrived on Sunday and the house has been filled with their talk. “Remember when’s” and stories from childhood on.
Friends have called and dropped by, cards and letters have arrived…(And food—thank you very much!)…all remembering my dad. The good things he did, the stories he told. (And he could tell a good story—those of you who have known him long are smiling to yourselves and can probably tell a few).
Listening to this talk you remember things you forgot, and hear things you never knew. Another facet, another shade of color of the person you love so much and thought you knew so well.
I have been listening to these stories all week. Now it’s my turn: Let me tell you what my dad did for me.
My dad took me hunting. I remember the first time—I was four years old. We were in upstate New York and the snow was deeper than me. And we bundled up and went tromping through the woods in search for deer. My family remembers I wet my pants—but mostly I remember hunting with my dad.
When I was 10 or so, he taught me to shoot a rifle. Later, when I was in the Air Force, I had to shoot an M-16 to qualify for something or other. Both times I imagined my dad standing firmly behind my shoulder so the recoil wouldn’t knock me on my backside. I got two expert marksmanship medals that way—pretending my dad was standing right behind me.
He taught me to bowl. He taught all of us how to bowl! Kids, sons-in-law, and grandkids. (Of course none of us could touch his average!).
Just a couple of nights ago my sister and I, our husbands and my daughter went to the Triangle to bowl some games. I think that a memorial in itself some way…
My dad was a great provider.
He bought me my first car. (He helped me buy probably at least two other cars as well, and my sister, too, I’m sure).
He helped both my sister and I buy our first homes.
He has loaned me more money that I care to admit needing…
He never hesitated to help when we were in need.
He was the best grandpa. I am so glad my daughter was able to spend part of nearly every summer with my folks.
So we’ve been remembering.
We remember things like Old Spice, old songs, a familiar phrase or the oft-told story that always makes us laugh. The fact that he loved to listen to my sister sing (and in a bit she will sing one of his favorite songs).
But the best foundation my dad laid, on which all the rest lays (on top or alongside), are the many ways he showed us his love and his commitment to our success. By providing for us, putting braces on our teeth, helping us get our start as adults on our own, capping off his commitments to his family in the role of indulgent grandpa and even more indulgent owner of one very lonely tabby cat.
We will miss him much, but know he is in a better place—one without pain, without hassles and where he can look on us all and continue to care for us well.
So I'll think about him until I go to bed tonight, maybe cry a little, then wake up and do my best to apply the good lessons he taught us. I hope he'd be proud.
I love you, Dad, and I miss you.