It has been more than four months since my father passed away. I typed that without crying. I was looking at some pictures last night and I was able to smile and remember the moment rather than lament the loss. I had a long talk with a family member yesterday and we talked about habits and traits and how they can be shared like genetics.
We talked about things that have sentimental value. Everyone deals differently with loss. People grieve in various ways and at his or her own speed. I’m doing okay for the most part. I don’t get as sad when I think of Dad or things we did together. Years ago he gave me his cast iron skillet and dutch oven. Every time I use one of those I think fondly of him. These pans are well seasoned and in great shape thanks to him. He also gave me his pressure cooker about a year ago. He said he had no further use for it. He even had me take him to Barnes and Noble one day so he could buy me a pressure cooker cook book.
Today I stumbled upon some pictures I took of him the last time we went out on his boat. That was such a great day. I was sitting there on the back of the boat and Dad was steering of course. There were junk fish jumping all over the place. He was telling me how they were taking over the river and how they were trying to find ways of getting rid of them. He said that people had been knocked out of their boats by these fish when they jumped out of the water and hit them in the face. Suddenly one of those bad boys jumped right into the boat! I screamed and lifted my feet as any self respecting girl would do. My Dad cracked up laughing and said “Well GET IT!” Uh what? Well after a few fits and starts and a couple of squeals I finally wrapped both hands around this slimy unwanted visitor and tossed it off the boat. We could not stop laughing.
When we had traveled pretty far downriver we turned around and headed back. Dad let me drive, showing me the buoys and what they mean and explaining the channels in the river etc. He talked about the next time we would go out and where we would go. He let me try to dock the boat but I was too nervous and couldn’t do it. He got irritated with me of course because I was going to hit the dock but I took it all in stride, he was a natural and I was absolutely not. In the end it didn’t matter, we drove back drinking bottles of water, air conditioning at full blast listening to jazz on the radio in companionable silence. I couldn’t wait until the next time we could go out together, I was determined to try to dock the boat again and do it right this time. I wanted to make him proud.
Every good thing I have ever done in my life I couldn’t wait to share it with my parents. I craved the accolades of the two people whose opinions I valued the most. My father’s praise was quiet and dignified but it was clear. “That’s very good” he would say with a big smile on his face then he would ask questions.
When I had Anne Marie he was a little unsure of himself for a while but she won his heart. They were fast friends by the time she was three years old. He was so proud of that little girl. He loved his grandchildren unreservedly and they knew it. He wanted to teach them and steer them the right way in life.
When Anne Marie was almost nine years old she had to have minor surgery. She had to be anaesthetized for the procedure and she did not handle it well. When she was in recovery they called me back and she was just waking up. She looked horrific! The whites of her eyes were extremely bloodshot and she was incredibly pale. She was crying and mumbling as I rushed to her side. “It’s okay Honey Mommy is here” I said quietly while stroking her hair back from her face. She mumbled again and I leaned in to hear her better. “What Annie I can’t hear you baby”. She said “Mommy! Go get Grandpa!” Well I chuckled a little and said “Annie Grandpa isn’t here what do you need?” “Mommy!” she whined “Go get Grandpa they are trying to kill me!” She wanted her Gpa (what she calls him affectionately in email, text etc.) to come and save her.
Recently someone asked me if I could describe my Dad in one sentence what would it be. After some thought I got it and it’s just right. “Do the right thing.” My father was the most honest man I have ever known, bad or good. Sometimes his honesty could hurt but one still had to respect that nonetheless. I can only hope to live up to his expectations as I live out the rest of my life – to honor him and his memory.