My Dad was my protector, provider and my hero. I am so blessed to have had him as a role model and teacher of life, relationships and family. He was not a perfect man, no man nor woman is, but he was perfect for me and my family. I still reflect back on the many lessons in life that he’s shared and pleasantly surprised of how the little nuggets of his wisdom are surfacing more and more as I’ve matured.
I have such fond memories of my Dad, starting as a little girl, going to the candy store on Sunday morning’s, after church, of course, and picking out whatever I wanted. The time I jumped up into my Dad’s arms for protection from a dog, to spending time with him while he was working on his honey-do projects around the house and listening to him whistler and sing along to his favorite songs, while cooking breakfast and oh, the family cookouts, to listening intently as he shared stories about his buddies in the service and traveling around the world, to watching him light up as he would talk about how he met my Mom, and the list goes on and on, up until our last conversation just before he passed away.
The day my father passed, July 2008, was so surreal. He had lived a good life, as he’d often remind us. He survived the military, retired from a government job, survived cancer, up until the day his heart couldn’t beat any longer.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was on my way to the airport after spending 2 weeks home helping care for my Dad, knowing that any day could be his final day due to congestive heart failure. I had traveled to/from for 6 months to visit and help care for my Dad, up until his final days.
I had just boarded the plane when my cell phone rang. It was my daughter calling. She had just dropped me off at the airport and called to say “come back, come back, I’ll come get you, grand-pa just passed away”.
I decided to stay on the plane, go home and take care of a few things and turn around and come back in a few days. I needed space and a little time to come to grips with the fact that my Dad was gone and what that meant. No more calls and hearing him say, Hey Sweetie, how you doing?
Losing my Dad was really hard on me and I did not allow myself time to grieve. It wasn’t until December the following year, while I was home for the Christmas holiday, and visiting his grave site that it hit me. As I started clearing off his headstone, removing snow, and all of a sudden this overwhelming rush of emotions came over me and I broke down, literally fell, and burst uncontrollably into tears. The time I’d spent trying to be so strong and holding everything in, appeared to melt away… as if the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. There I was un-consolable, as my daughter, my younger brother and sister, and nephew surrounded me, and picked me up. They had never seen me that vulnerable, ever. That experience made me realize how important it is to grieve and having support of your family to lean on.
Going through the grieving process enabled me to reflect and appreciate the many years with my Dad. In the end, I realized what a gift I had been given, because he was my Dad and my gift to him in return was being there for him, when he needed me the most, and for that, I am forever grateful to be Daddy’s little girl.