December 2nd is my father’s birthday.
I’ve lived the last eight years without him, as he passed away from
complications of Emphysema in 1999. My father was a wonderful man, a great father, a hard worker and always put his family first.
There’s something about a father-daughter relationship that is so special. I can remember when I was little how I loved to sit on “daddy’s” lap. He had “his” chair, and when I would climb up onto his lap while he was in his chair, I felt safe, secure and that “daddy” would help make everything okay in my life. The feeling is still so indescribable, but I feel it each time I recall those memories. I continued to climb onto his lap, until it became obvious that I was getting too tall to do that in my early teens. The day I sat on his lap, and I felt too big and uncomfortable for his lap, was a sad day for me. I would give anything to sit on his lap just one more time today.
Dad would come home from a very hard day’s work exhausted. He was an auto mechanic at his own mechanic garage and worked from about 7am until 5pm, taking a break for lunch at home. When he would arrive home after work, I would help him take his work “coveralls” off, and get his slippers for him. Then he would always, without fail, have a beer and take his shower before supper was ready. It was a routine for all of us.
I can remember how dad would close down his garage to come to my afternoon softball games and track meets. I remember specifically two instances where it gave me such a sense of pride and security to see both mom and dad in the stands.
One was at a track meet, probably my senior year in school. Before the meet began, I looked into the stands and there they were–dad was in his navy blue work coveralls and his matching navy hat. That meet I was running the shuttle hurdle relay and my trailing foot caught one of the hurdles–I fell face forward, sprawling myself on the ground in between two hurdles. I was in pain…skinned up, bloody and embarassed. I looked in the stands and both mom and dad were standing up, cheering. I specifically remember hearing dad’s words in my head that he always used to tell us…”You gotta be tough!” I had to pick myself up and finish–if for nothing else but for them. We ended up winning that relay…thanks to my teammates for making up the time I lost.
Another instance where I remember them being at one of my afternoon games was at a softball game. I was rounding third base after one of my teammates got a hit and was heading for home plate. Catching mom and dad in the stands in the corner of my eye, I remember how privileged I felt that both of them were there, when most parents couldn’t be there. I slid into home, hit my head on the ground and was knocked out for a short moment. Thank the Lord that they were there–they took me to the emergency room and I had received a mild concussion!
I am so grateful for the things dad taught me. He had such a dry sense of humor–he could be so funny! He taught me to work hard, and yet put your family in priority. He taught me to not give up. He taught me to “be tough!” His wisdom and knowledge amazed me–I knew I could go to him with anything and he would have an answer for me. He was such an amazing, strong, yet stubborn man. I know that’s where I get my stubborness! In my rebellous teenage years, I know I put both him and mom through a lot, but he never stopped loving me.
In his final weeks and days of his life here on earth, I sat by his hospital bed many afternoons to just be there and keep him company. Those are some of the most precious memories. Just my daddy and me. I loved him deeply and I still miss him deeply. Today is his birthday…the greatest gift I can give him now is to carry on his legacy and to pass it on to our children. When times get difficult, I cherish his advice…You gotta’ be tough!