my dad would have been 82 today.
i vacillate between a continuing sorrow over his death and a sigh of relief about the same event. i know he wasn't happy the way he was... he knew he was suffering from alzheimers, he'd not reached the point where he didn't have the realisation, he lived with it daily... railing against his continued health problems--his macular degeneration, that didn't allow him to see his beloved books or choose his music by name...having to rely on the grab and play method... the need to call myself or the kids to come fix his remote control or find his cd player or plug in a lamp. his hearing had faded and he suddenly had to use a cane, when only a few years before, he'd walked up and down the mountains of southern utah without stopping to catch his breath.
he shaved his beard, i'm not sure why... that action added to the age of his face. his eyes, that used to sparkle on a regular basis, only caught that light when we went out to eat, or, when he saw hrh... he adored her.
he was proud of jarhead, shushing my concerns about him joining the marines, telling me to suck it up, i was the daughter and the mother of a marine. the investment made him laugh...and he would say, "he'll be like you, and come into his own later in life. don't worry." he regretted his outbursts of anger set off by life, and his lack of control over that anger--control taken away by that shitty, shitty disease.
he loved me.
i loved him.
we didn't always have a good relationship, he was a harsh father. we learned to be friends, then, chose each other for family... the best of both worlds.
he was proud of the brother and thought my sister in law was gods gift to the world. she, in turn, with her laughter and kind ways, always enjoyed his time with them, and loved him for him.
in a way, i'm glad to leave my little utah town because there are so many one on one memories that remind me of him. restaurants, shopping...even wal mart, a place he loved to shop. we'd push the cart, i'd grab, he'd talk, and he always called me on the 1st of each month, when his retirement check hit, and say, "hey, we have new money!!" i can't even go to the dump without thinking of him, and how we'd laugh on our way to remove boxes from the house when we first moved here. "well, what fun, lets go to the dump!!" every morning, i'd open the little town newspaper, and he'd say, "well, who are we at war with?". he'd just said that phrase, on 11 september 2001...when i turned on the tv and we saw the second plane hit. he never said it again.
my father always promised me that we would go to tuscany. we talked about the trip, planned it, drooled over it... and one day, i'll go, and spread the last of his ashes that i keep here at home.
i'll cry, as i am now... and miss his hand on my shoulder, his encouraging voice in my ear, his dear face in my vision. when i wrote his obituary, i did it to honour him... not the man he was when i was a child.. but, the friend i'd lost. it's not a traditional one...but, it fit him. it bespoke his time in korea, his love of so many things, his abilities to accomplish many things in his life.
the last trip he took, he and my mother drove an rv for weeks and thousands of miles.. and from that came the photo the brother and hrh and i all cherish... dad, at a campground with the brother and his wife, in a tshirt and shorts, full beard, reading elmore leonard, and flashing a smile and the peace sign. it bespeaks the essence of the man he'd become. although my mother and i don't really get along, i am forever grateful she took that trip with him... giving him one last long enjoyable time before he was slapped down, before we knew, when there were questions and no answers. she took care of him, and pampered him and drove him crazy. but, she drove that rv like a champ, and he always spoke of the trip with fondness.
i have never been able to listen to the song below, and not think of my dad. he loved judy collins and, when we were on car trips, he'd ask me to sing it in my alto, so different from the larkvoice of judy...it was something i always did, the words causing me to cry at the end. he'd thank me, and then, we'd sing together all the songs we knew, crossing our fingers my tone deaf mother wouldn't join in...
in his honour, i'll ask all of you to do what i suggested in his obituary... take some time, your favourite spot, your favourite book, and read. if someone should come up and disturb you, say what he would have said (in fact, he proudly wore the tshirt that had this very saying on it)
"shut the hell up, i'm reading."
happy birthday, daddy.