Wow, that’s weird to say because sadly he died 10 years ago at the age of 59. He didn’t even get to see 60!
It’s days like today that I miss him the most though.
Growing up my dad was an artist and mainly worked at home (and consequently, rarely left the house!). So he was always there. He wasn’t the Dad who went on business trips, or the Dad that routinely worked late in the office. He was our number 1 fan!
Because he worked his own schedule, going to my brother’s track events, my sister’s pom-pom competitions (those were grueling 10 hour days: (“so your two events are at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., but we need to be their by 6:00 a.m. to wait until 9:00 p.m. to find out if your team won??!!) and my FIELD HOCKEY games (which were action packed!) he was always there, camera over his neck.
Every year he would come to the last day of school and take pictures of us, our friends and teachers. Well by high school, we thought that would not be cool. Wouldn’t you know it, all our friends looked around our last day of freshman year and asked “so where’s your Dad with his camera?”
Because he mainly took all the pictures, there are not a lot of pictures of him. But when he did pose for a picture, he would give you this standard “cheese” smile – it never felt genuine.
But this one is! We were vacationing in Nags Head, North Carolina, and he had just gotten flipped by a wave. I think this has to be one of my favorite pictures of him!
But my fondest memories are the times he spent with my daughter. I was a single mom the first 8 years of Hannah’s life. I ended up moving in with my parents “for a year” but it ended up being 5 years!
In any event, I wouldn’t trade those five years for anything, for they were the last five years of his life. If you thought that his love of his children was overwhelming, well you didn’t see the Hannah and Poppy bond!
My most vivid memories of that time were weekend breakfasts. As soon as Hannah was able to walk, she’d get out of bed, walk downstairs and immediately go sit on Poppy’s lap. He’d read her the paper, they would draw, make hats out of the newspaper, share each others toast. I can’t tell you how many pictures I have of the two of them like this, and since it was breakfast, my Dad would be in his bathrobe. After showing some of these pictures to my co-workers, they asked: “Does he ever get dressed?”
My father was diabetic as well. I wasn’t diagnosed until around 2000, but it would kill him if he knew. But because of watching his “mistakes” I think I am a healthy diabetic. He basically ate anything he wanted and would “cover” it with more insulin. I’d routinely open the bread box, only to pull out a Dunkin Donuts apple fritter. His reply “how did that get in there?”
I’ll never forget one morning, Hannah was about three, and she had gotten up around 6:00 a.m. and she and I were in the living room watching Little Mermaid (for the billionth time!) when my Dad walked down the stairs, in his underwear ONLY (that just never happened!) and immediately went into the kitchen and sat down.
I followed him in only to see his eyes glazed over. I immediately took his blood sugar and it was 25!!!! So I get some orange juice, but its just pouring out of his mouth, he can’t swallow it. So while Hannah wakes up Nana and my mom calls 911, I finally find a Hershey bar that has no nuts, so I just start shoving the chocolate in his mouth and help him chew. At this point I was hoping the sugar would just somehow absorb into his system!
But a few minutes later, the paramedics arrived and started a glucose drip and 15 minutes later he starts to come around. Then all of a sudden, he licks his lips and says “why does my mouth taste like chocolate?” I was so thankful that happend on a weekend and not a week day when we would have already left the house!
But it was cancer that took him in the end. He was a multi-pack smoker for most of his life. He never thought he smoked much, because he said he would light one up, set it down, start drawing, and then the next thing he’d look down and there would only be one drag left, so he’d light another one.
But the funny thing is that he and my mom had BOTH stopped smoking 10 years earlier, but the damage was already done.
He died at home, with his family around him. At the wake all these people came up to me and said “your Dad would just light up a room as soon as he walked in!” He was the forever joke teller and would give you his last shirt off of his back if you needed it.
I admit though, growing up, I didn’t think of my Dad as successful. He had marginal success as an artist, although he was good. He even went back to school to learn about restaurant management because someday he wanted to open up his own restaurant.
But in the end, who cares how much money is in your bank account, how big your house is, or what car you drive.
In the end its that you were loved and loved back – and that was definitely the case with my Dad! Happy Birthday!
So if your Dad is still alive, go give him an extra kiss from me.