Father’s Day has come and gone – it’s 3 minutes until midnight as I begin to write this. Alyssa asked me today if it’s weird to not have a dad on Father’s Day. For a second, I didn’t even understand the question. Then I realized she meant, since my dad is dead.
My dad died in 1990 – that’s 24 years ago. We buried him on Michael’s 1st birthday. Now that was weird… but really just part of the synchronicity of life and death. It’s funny how you make correlations that aren’t really even there: We buried my dad on Michael’s birthday, and buried Ron’s dad on his son, Zachary’s birthday only 3 months later. When Ron’s 92 year old grandfather died on New Year’s Eve, my 92 year old grandmother died a couple of months later. The “spell” was broken when Ron’s mother died. We all turned to my mother to see if she was going to die within a couple of months… but nope. Still here. I’m not really sure why I’m sharing all of this with you on Father’s Day…except because, well, my dad is dead.
I was a Daddy’s Girl, through and through. We spent a lot of time together. I was his only biological child (my brother, Eddie, came 2 years later.) My dad was what we called An Older Father. He was 41 when I was born. It didn’t seem to slow him down. I’ve decided that in honor of Father’s Day, I’d do a little reminiscing about how my dad and I connected and some of the things we used to spend time doing.
- My dad went on bike rides with me in the summertime after dinner. He’d let all the neighborhood kids join us and we’d trek off to a horse stable or some other place that was normally beyond our “safe zone.”
- When I was a cheerleader, he let us paint the car with shoe polish, and then, as we drove into the parking lot, he’d let us sit in the windows ringing cowbells and shouting for our team. He just smiled, drove slowly, and didn’t mind the noise a bit.
- He taught me everything about football. He and I watched game after game, weekend after weekend. He’d explain the plays, the rules, and told me what to watch for.
- I credit my dad for teaching me to read way before I went to school. He traveled when I was little and bought me a red Big Chief tablet. Each night, the newspaper ran a cartoon about phonics, black and white for the weekdays and a big colorful one for the Sunday comics. I cut them out and taped them into my Big Chief tablet. Then when he came home, we’d read them together and act them all out. (like this one)
- He’d make cream of wheat for me in the mornings – he always knew the perfect consistency and did something with the sugar that made it crystalize and look like roads on top of the cereal.
- When we weren’t biking with the neighborhood, my dad would go on walks with me after dinner. I think my mom needed a break from her very chatty child 😉 He would listen to me and we would talk about my life and my future and all the hopes he had for me. Whenever I see those sticky hedge apples, I always think of our evening walks. The streets in Dallas were lined with those trees – at least where we were walking.
- My dad spent so much time at the pool with me. He taught me to swim. When we were little, he’d throw us in the air, landing in the water. He’d toss pennies in the pool for us to dive and find. He’d referee races and then dive in at the end to beat the winner. (He was a great swimmer, and even won some record for swimming across a lake in Fort Scott, Kansas.)
He taught me how to interact with people. Some of it was by example – he was always gregarious and happy to see people he knew. And he was the same way with strangers. He treated everyone the same. When I was having a hard time at about 12-13 years old, he asked me if I wanted to learn a trick. Of course, I did, and he said, “Never be afraid to say hello to someone first. If you know their name, even better. People are walking around worried about all kinds of things, and if you say hello to them, they’ll do two things. For one, they’ll answer you. And second, they’ll remember that you reached out to them. People like that and it’s an easy thing to do.” It really did work and helped me not feel so alone.
I’m noticing something about my list. My most heartfelt memories of my dad came simply because I could see how he enjoyed spending time with me. I knew a lot of other kids’ dads who didn’t seem to do that, and so now, looking at my list, I feel even more grateful for having such a wonderful dad. I hope that dads everywhere can understand that it’s really just the little things that make a difference. These are what your kids will remember when they’re in their 50’s thinking back about how lucky they were to get such a great dad.