Sunday, June 19, 2011
It's Father's Day. Hit me like a ton of bricks this morning. It is so difficult to even talk about my Dad because my grief is still so thick but I want to honor him and tell you about his final gift to me.
Our relationship wasn't a typical father-daughter relationship-it was always hard. Sometimes it was hard because we were so alike and other times because we were so different, but we always kept trying. Being together was easy for us, it was the coming together that we had a hard time figuring out. I love this photo of him, even though it was his obituary photo. I don't have any photos of us in a warm embrace or with my children perched on his knee, I am not even in most of the "family" photos, that's just how it was with us. He didn't teach me to drive the boat or to water ski like my siblings-my memories are different than theirs because our relationship was different, but the things he taught me were far more important for life that skiing. What he taught me was to keep working at relationships that matter-no matter what...that's worth more than a photo op or driving the boat, to me.
If I had to describe him to you, I would tell you that he was larger than life-he was handsome, smart, funny, a man of grace and integrity, he loved adventure and golf, he liked to cook, and he loved his family. He was also an amazing story teller. I could sit as his feet for hours and listen to his stories (all of my siblings would say the same). We both had our stories we would tell everyone about the other. He told the one about me almost killing him in the back of the truck when I was learning to drive, and I told the one about how much trouble we got into when my cousin and I had to be rescued from a raft on the lake. The story neither of us told is the one about the time he saved my life. Broken hearted, I had decided to end it and there he was out of nowhere. Somehow he knew I was in trouble-we didn't talk about it to fix it, we just had a beer and a sandwich and that was enough. It stayed just between us. So did the daily phone calls that followed for a while. His presence and his silence were my gift that day.
Two of the most precious gifts he has ever given me were leaves from Boston, and rocks from Mexico. Rocks and leaves? I know, it's sounds a little silly but their were more precious than gold to me. It wasn't the rocks and leaves themselves, it was that he took the time to go out and pick up the very best ones and cart them across the country just for me. When he brought back the leaves for me, they were tucks in the pages of a magazine for safety. He sat down and told me about each one, where he found it, and what it looked like where he had been. The same with the rocks-he could have spent two minutes filling a bucket with rocks but he knew what shape I liked and took the time to find just the right ones for me. When he gave them to me, he showed me each one rather than hand me a bucket of rocks. He understood that they were treasures to me. His gift then was his love, time and understanding....and of course the rocks and leaves.
When his final days came I was able to go and help care for him along with my sisters. When I arrived late in the evening on the first night I volunteered to take the night shift with him and did this everynight until his last night. In those quiet hours and the days in between we were able to talk, laugh, tell our secrets and connect in a way we never could before that. I don't think I slept for three days because we both knew the importance of this time together and I didn't want to miss a minute of it, I wanted to soak him into my bones. He allowed himself to need my help and I gave it. We looked deeply and saw and heard each other. We just loved each other. He spoke five little words to me (that I can't share...maybe next year) that gave me the sense of belonging that I had been trying to find my whole life. He was able to leave and I was able to let him go with no regret. His final precious gift to me (and me to him) was Peace....we had finally figured us out and it was priceless.
I love you Dad, I miss your voice, your laugh and your stories. Happy Father's Day.