I remember the very last time I got to tell my dad, “Happy Father’s Day.” It was in June, 1988. So long ago, but I remember it vividly. A guy I was dating and I took the kids to South Dakota, Mount Rushmore to be specific. We loaded my station wagon with all the gear, and I drove us all. By the second night, I was ready to send him home on a bus, directly to his mother. He was pretty self-centered. The kids had fun, and I did with them, but not with him.
I had just attended my best friend’s funeral. Angie died of lung cancer in early June. Her daughter got married the day after the funeral. I hurt so badly I ached. I’d lost grandparents and old aunts before, but never a friend. The boyfriend couldn’t understand my need to grieve. He thought in two weeks I’d be back to normal, and I wouldn’t be sad anymore. I was finished with him by the end of the summer, and never to look back. The other thing that summer trip taught me was never pitch your tent downhill at a campground. After months of drought, the first night we camped, the skies opened up like history was repeating the rains for Noah’s Ark. It was the worst rain I’ve ever experienced. In a tent.
So Father’s Day came, the kids and I walked to the pay phone near the camp office. I had a bunch of change in hand. (Explain to the children what that was. I’ll wait!) I dialed my parents phone number, and Dad answered. He always sounded a little embarrassed when I called to with him Happy Birthday, Happy Father’s Day or Merry Christmas. He was such a humble man. The kids all talked with him, and told him what we had been up to. I got back on the phone, told him I missed him, and we’d be home soon. Looking back, I can hardly believe we would be getting ready for his funeral in six short months.
He would retire, become ill, be diagnosed with lung cancer in October, and die 51 days later. He died on December 7, and was buried on the 10th. What a shock. What a raw deal for him. Finally retire and look forward to doing whatever he wanted, and he got cheated. Wow. I’m sure he was rewarded for his devotion to God, his family, his job, and to being the good example he was to my children. Especially Frankie. Once in awhile even now, he’ll talk about something he and Grandpa did together. I’ll never forget how kind he was to Frankie.
It’s a void, but when eternity comes to mind, I picture getting to be with my dad and his mother again. They were the two most powerful examples to me growing up. I am fortunate to have had a father who was the quintessential gentleman, full of respect for women, and full of love for his family. Sure, he wasn’t a saint, but no one is. His many lessons still live in my heart today.
It’s been said before; if you have your parents, call them. Every time you get the chance. You may not be able to the next time it comes into your mind. Never let regrets have a chance to take root. Say you’re sorry; mend those fences. Life is way too short.
For those of you who still have your dad’s, hug them for me. I hope you all have a beautiful evening, and we’ll see each other tomorrow. Stay hydrated! It’s brutal out there, again.