This is my Dad.
He’s been gone seven years today. Seven years since he lost his battle with multiple sclerosis. It was a long and ugly battle, and he fought hard. He fought harder than I thought a person possibly could, through a myriad of issues: a stroke. The loss of his limbs and hands. Blindness. It was his heart–the biggest part of him–that finally gave out on a beautiful May morning in 2008.
But I don’t want to think about that right now. I spend most of the spring thinking about it. Most people cheer when the winter doldrums are over. But the spring is my saddest time. As the months warm I start reliving the last months, weeks, and days I had with my Dad.. And I get overwhelmed by it all. Sometimes the fact that I will never see my father again crushes me, so that I have to stop and remind myself to breath.
I always try to do something special to remember my father on this day. But as I thought about what I wanted to do on this anniversary, I didn’t find myself uplifted by the thought. I just felt sad. And so I decided that today, in his honor, I would give myself a break and just not think about it. At least, not think about the sadness–today, I’m going to go remember before the sadness.
And, if you’d like to listen, I’d like to tell you about him.
He liked to hear himself talk. He talked a lot–with his voice and his hands. He smiled all the way up to his eyes.
He loved the Miami Dolphins. He liked the Falcons, too, unless they were playing Miami. On those days we would all dress in our Miami finest–I even had Miami Dolphin high-top sneakers. I was one stylin’ pre-teen.
He would pull me out of school randomly, and the secretary at the front desk would ask what the reason was.
“I want to spend time with my daughter,” he would tell her. And then he’d take me fishing. Or to get french fries. Or we’d just drive.
The summer I was 19, he, my mom and I went drove to Boston in my little Rav-4 with a puppy I’d bought on a whim three days before. We went to York Beach, Maine and visited the Lighthouse and he and my mom ate seafood that had been caught that morning.
His favorite Christmas movie was Miracle on 34th Street…followed closely by National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I still watch it every year and crack up. It confuses my husband, because it’s not typically the kind of humor I enjoy. But every time I watch it, I can hear my Dad laughing so hard he couldn’t talk.
After my parents dropped me off at college, he came back and had lunch with me three times that week. I went to school just under two hours away.
When no one asked me to the homecoming dance my first year of high school, he bought me a corsage.
He always got me a card on Valentine’s Day.
When I was little, I made him a coupon for “one Daddy/Daughter day, place and time to be picked by him”. He kept it almost 20 years and threatened to cash it on my wedding day. He did not. I found it in his wallet after he died.
He and my mom came to every single performance and show I ever put on. This includes the entire run of my first theater production in college and every marching band show for two years.
When I had written something he liked, he’d put a copy of it on the fridge with a big A+ written on it.
Of course, he wasn’t perfect. But who is? Heaven knows I’m not a perfect person or parent. But I do the best I know how–and I know he did, too. And in my eyes, that makes him perfect.
Just a few days ago, while my Husband and I were watching reruns of “How I Met Your Mother”, we came across an episode where one of the characters loses his father and then discovers he has a voicemail from him he hasn’t listened to. And it made all the characters think about their last conversations with their loved ones and the words they would have to remember them by if something were to happen.
I know I said I wanted to remember the happy today, the before. But if you really want to know who my Dad was, you need to know his famous last words.
I remember the last time I saw him quite clearly. It was, ironically, at the funeral of a father of a girl I had grown up with. We had all been close to the man and it was quite sobering. My Dad waved at me from the car window as I drove away. I’m sure I spoke with him on the phone before he died a week and a half later. But that was the last time I saw him.
I don’t remember exactly how either of those conversations went, that last one in person or on the phone. But I know the last thing he said to me. It was the last thing he always said to me.
I love you.
There was not a time in my life he let me out of his sight without telling me he loved me. No matter how mad he got, no matter how much yelling was involved. You never know when it’s going to be the last time, he used to tell me. Always say I love you. Perhaps this is a fatalist view of the world. Maybe thinking like that makes it hard to live in the moment.
But then it was the last time. And the last words were I love you.
And so even though I don’t remember, I know.
And that’s my Dad.