Fathers and Daughters

I am so fortunate to have had a good Dad. He was of the generation who provided for their family and left the disciplining to Mom. Because Dad worked nights, Mom bore most of the work with the house and kids. She ran a tight ship and I did not want to cross her. She could clear a room just by her presence. We spent a lot of time outside playing, on the front porch reading, or in the back yard, playing jacks or marbles. We had to be quiet because Dad slept from about 5 a.m. until 1 p.m. If we woke him up, there would be hell to pay.

So, yes, Mom took the role of bad guy. She knew it. She sometimes commented she was bad guy, so we wouldn’t be mad at our dad. We didn’t hear, “Wait until your Father gets home.” Mom dealt out quick punishments and we didn’t challenge her. Her word was law.

Dad’s weekends were Sunday night and Monday nights. He would enjoy a couple of beers with Mom over the evenings. Sometimes, we’d go visit his friend Tom and his family. People would drop over a lot. WE didn’t have the company, we were the company, usually. Dad was always a perfect gentleman to women. He was the perfect example of how men should behave. Back then, if a woman put a cigarette to her lips, a gentleman would whip out his Zippo, light it quickly, and she would accept the light. You have probably seen it in movies if you never witnessed it in person.

There was never an official talk from Dad about life. It was always an example he gave. Everything from “Don’t ever volunteer for anything, they’ll never let you rest,” to “If you don’t know what’s going on, keep your mouth shut and your ears open.” Good advice. It even works now. A two-time bronze star recipient, he never talked about the wars he fought. He was exceptionally good at first aid. Of course; he was in medical in the Army. What he must have seen. Sometimes, he had a far away look on his face, where you could see he wasn’t quite with us. He would refocus on what was going on in the present. I often wondered where those moments took him.

There is no good thing about cancer. The only thing close to good is you get to spend time saying good-bye. I was fortunate to have my own time with him every day during lunch. I left my job, only six blocks away, and spent nearly an hour with him. We talked about everything we never discussed before. My kids, he told me they were going to be good people, don’t give up. He knew my job frustration as I tried to climb the corporate ladder without a college degree. He told me to keep doing what I’m doing, working, going to school, I will get there. I did. He was gone before I made it, but I know he witnessed it. I got to tell him goodbye. The last day, he said, “I just can’t fight this anymore.” I covered him up, took his glasses, and whispered, “You just do what you have to do, Dad. I love you, and we’ll help Mom out.” I kissed his forehead and he closed his eyes.

Later that afternoon, Mom called us and we went to the hospital. He died within a couple hours. He was in a coma, his lung had collapsed. The Doc said he could reinflate it, but it wouldn’t buy him any time. I told him what Dad just said to me a couple hours earlier, and after a minute or so, my brothers and Mom agreed to just let him go. He wasn’t in pain with the meds, so we just sat and listened. When you hear those breaths getting further apart, you anticipate at any moment there will not be another one. Until there is. Finally, they stop. A beautiful feeling descended upon the room. I’m not sure if anyone else felt it, but I did.

Dad was cheated out of enjoying retirement. He didn’t see his grandkids grow up. He didn’t see his adult children achieve. I think he would have enjoyed surfing the Internet. I’m lucky to be a woman who had a Dad like this. So many didn’t. For those who didn’t, they are suspicious of any male authority figure. I’m not. Dad gave us a secure home. Some people lacked that. Alcoholism among men was widespread during those years. I never had to walk to the neighborhood bar and beg my dad for money, or to come home. Some kids I know had to do that. How sad.

I love how Dad’s are so interactive with their kids in these times. I see so many good Dad’s, and I tell them so. I love it’s not just Mom’s job anymore. This is a change for the good. It benefits the kids, as long as the kid relationship with the parents isn’t more important than the parent to parent relationship. Things can get off track then. Beware of that. Then the kids rule the home where the parents are supposed to.

I’ll never forget my father’s hands. When he was sleeping in the hospital, I would hold his hand. They weren’t as warm and strong as they once were. I remembered walking down the street next to him, and he would hold my hand. I felt so safe with him. Always. He took me to the doctor, too. He didn’t get angry if I cried. He told me stories about taking care of people in the Army. He distracted me, so I wasn’t afraid. He got me. Those hands were miracle workers. They fixed cars and people. They remodeled the house. They worked on the presses at the local paper. They painstakingly built WWII model airplanes. What good memories.

Thank you so much for reading today, and taking a walk into my memories of Dad. I’m so proud to have been his daughter. He would have loved the Babe. They have similar qualities, all good. How lucky I am! Today is more of the same, learning Kid Lit stuff. Wish it was more exciting, but it has to be done. Going to lunch with my eldest today, so that will be a nice break in the work. Have a beautiful day. Be Safe. Be Courteous. Be Kind. Be Respectful. We all need it! See you tomorrow!

Love you, Dad

I don’t recall Pearl Harbor. I wasn’t born yet. In fact, I would be over a decade in arriving on this planet. We grew up having a great respect for our country, our Armed Forces; after all, Dad was a medic/support person in both WWII and Korea. I’ve told this story before, but please cut me some slack. Today is the day, in 1988, that we told him goodbye. Nothing has hurt that badly since. I wouldn’t let it. I retreated from everyone I loved; even my children. And for that, I’m sorry, guys. I just didn’t know how to handle what I felt. All I knew was I wanted nothing to hurt that badly again.

Not being unkind, my mom is like a Drill Sergeant. Very stoic. We never saw her cry. I’ve not heard her say she misses him, not even once. If my brothers and I were all together in her presence, she would get angry if we talked about him. We didn’t know what to do. We needed to grieve together, and that didn’t happen. They had taught Mom to be that way. It’s what got her through. We all had unhealthy ways of coping with those feelings of loss. It wasn’t pretty.

My oldest son was seventeen. They diagnosed dad with lung cancer on Frankie’s birthday. Cancer, the gift that kept on giving. Fifty-one days later, Dad died. He lost over fifty pounds. I’m glad he didn’t lose his hair. He had beautiful hair and was a handsome man. I learned to listen to Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Harry James, and how beautiful Lena Horne was from Dad. All significant memories. No one can take those from you. Dad spent a lot of time with Frankie, and taught him what to look for when you buy a used car, etc, etc, etc. Dad was the best male influence on all my kids.

My younger son, at thirteen, grieved openly and hard. He gets it all out of his system, and he’s done. He remembers funny things, and he tells us stories and asks questions. He was such a brainiac. Dad loved to tease him and his little sister, Becky. She was “Dolly” to Dad. He adored her, and I loved that he did. He told me what good kids they were.

I’d see him every weekday at the hospital, over my lunch hour. We talked about lots of stuff. We talked more in those fifty-one days than we had in my life. It was wonderful. The last thing he told me, on my lunch hour, Wednesday, December 7, 1988 was, “Sis, I just can’t fight this anymore. I’m tired.” I took his glasses, covered him up, kissed him on the forehead and told him, “Do what you’ve got to do, Dad. I’ll always watch out for Mom. Love you.”

At 4:20 p.m., Mom called me at work and said, “Call your brothers, you all need to come.” around 5:45 p.m., he passed. Quietly. Painlessly. No more pain. Thank God we had such a wonderful dad. He was tough, no doubt about that. You learned lessons, as we should have. The thing I learned most from him was “Do it right, or don’t bother.” I hear his voice while I’m writing. I feel his encouragement. No one can take that from me. I miss you and love you.

Dad’s Medals. I wrote to get them in 2016. He’s my hero, always. Two Bronze Stars? Bad Ass.

I learned a better way to grieve. I have told my kids about my mistakes and apologized. It’s a case of hoping they learn from your mistakes. It’s a gift when you do that for your kids. It’s a way to stop the craziness that travels from generation to generation. People always used to keep things to themselves. “Don’t tell your business.” Now, with social media, perhaps people share too much. We need to put aside the idea that we know everything, how to do everything. No one is that balanced; after all, we’re human and full of flaws! It’s a courageous act to admit it. And then learn a better way to do something. Ah, balance.

I know Dad would love the Babe. They have similar qualities. Deep sense of right, deep love and caring of others, firm yet fair. I was lucky my kids were good people; they have all turned out well. It’s the best thing you can hope for. It was hard to transition into being an empty nester. When you’re busy providing and working and studying and family dinners every night, you build up a momentum you keep on until you look around one day, and by gosh, they’re gone! On their own! You raised them to do that, now what?

You decide to write a book, and you write a blog, and you work with a book coach to learn. Life is good. We balance life. Life is the Babe and me, making the most of it; in sickness and health, in pandemic and wellness, in respect for the unknown and certain. We’ll make it. Together.

Thank you for reading today. I appreciate it. Spread happiness, not the Pandemic. Be Kind. Be Safe. Be Careful. Count your Blessings. We all have a lot. See you tomorrow!