I was teasing my darling son about his birthday presents. I pulled the same trick on him that my Dad used to pull on me. I told my son he was getting a trash can.
I told him he was getting a princess hoodie with the crown built right in. His very own roll of toilet paper. He knew I was teasing, but he responded just how I wanted him to. Just how I probably responded to my dad when he told me I was getting used toilet paper. Yes, you read that right. My son squealed and told me he wanted all the toys. He made a sad face. He frowned when I laughed at him and told him how he could use his very own trash can to pick up all the trash and put it away. “Think how useful it will be,” I said. He whined. I laughed. He frowned. He frowned with a little twitch on the corner of his mouth that said he knew I’d actually bought toys, and he was pleased that I had. Then we talked about cupcake flavors (all chocolate please, with Super Man rings and Teen Titans too.)
My dad was a lot of things. He was busy, busy, busy. Flying jets, playing racquet ball. He was a Colonel in the Air National Guard when he had a stroke. He worked full time at that and being a pilot for Horizon Airlines. Just think about that–two full time jobs, flying a wide range of planes. So, you see what I mean when I said he was busy. He was outstanding. One of my earliest memories was tucking my hand in his back pocket, so I wouldn’t lose him while he sped along.
My dad was the dad the other kids wanted. He was kind. I don’t remember a spank or even much yelling. He would say, he was ashamed of me, and I’d burn. Either with shame because he was right or indignation when I felt he was wrong. He was a good man. He believed in his country, in his family, in God and goodness. He was generous. He was a tease. He had a shocking sweet tooth which I’ve inherited. When I had my Feisty Pants, she’d run home to him because he always had a chocolate for her. When I flew to see him before he passed away, there was a package of peanut butter cups in the fridge. By package, I mean the kind that 7-11s have on the shelf. The box with full-size peanut butter cups inside. Because he could. So he did.
Sometimes grief sneaks up on you. When you’re simply teasing your son. Or when you catch sight of a Rocky and Bullwinkle figure on amazon. Or when you realize that your Dad never met your son or your youngest daughter. It sneaks up and makes you sad in a way that is painful and good. Because even though he’s gone–he was outstanding. And I’m smart enough to know how blessed I was to have him. He was an excellent in many ways. As a father, a counselor, a human being. He was an excellent friend. He was an amazing grandfather.
He liked cokes, and plain potato chips. Peanut butter cups were his favorite candy–but he’d eat anything sweet. He liked yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and he wanted to lick the bowl every time. He loved to decorate sugar cookies with his grandchildren. He probably loved that evening more than the kids did. I could make 150 cookies during the holidays, and it wouldn’t be enough. If we had baked goods, he was going to eat them. If you’d make him an apple pie, or blueberry or whatever, he’d always tell you seriously that he had a “hankering” for another flavor. He told you that your roast was salty.
He adored his mother. He was an excellent pilot. He flew lots of jets, and he flew them well. He was amused by Rocky Bullwinkle. He called me Princess and my sister, Pumpkin. He loved his boys and nothing made him happier than being surrounded by family. After he had a stroke, he’d dreamt about flying again. He played Civilization over and over again. He’d play it literally all night long in his 60s like he was 14 again and it was summer vacation. He loved to play games with his grandkids. He loved the board game Sorry and I remember him playing it with me over and over again. He taught me to play cribbage the way his Dad played (aka with mean cheating rules), and he cackled every time he pulled one of his Dad’s stunts on you.
He loved my mother. So much.
He owned the shiz out of his stroke. They told him he’d never walk or work again. And he did both of those things. He took on the worst kind of stroke you could have and he worked, drove, served in our church, he traveled. He was a grandfather, father, husband when they told him it was a miracle he was even breathing. He was, in fact, badass.
HIs favorite book was the Count of Monte Cristo. He loved stupid movies. He loved going to the movies. He liked steak and potatoes. He liked oysters on the half-shell. If my mom made cinnamon rolls, he was in heaven. He made this recipe of fudge that was outstanding and he guarded the recipe like it was manna direct from heaven. He loved his dogs and and got irritated whenever they needed their hair cut because they looked too much like a curly froo-froo dog when their hair was curling all over the place.
He was forgiving. He never stopped believing that each of his children were amazing. The six of us–we could do anything wrong. Ever. And it wouldn’t ever change the level of how much he adored us, how much he could forgive, and that he would fight for kids to his dying breath. In fact he did.
It gives me so much comfort to know that though he’s gone–he lives on. I can’t help but know this for in the time he’s been gone, I’ve felt him in my life.
And it gives me so much comfort to think of my little son whose his tender heart that carries a lot of hurt. And his sweet story telling mind that has an imagination as wide as the universe and currently absorbed by bears and heroes and forever daddies. And then I know that my Dad–who never got to meet my son–looks over him. Two weeks before my son came to my house, my parents moved across country. And before I had the freedom to travel with my children, my Dad passed away. But that doesn’t matter–because my Dad is a the kind of Dad who will look over his children and grandchildren. If you can work on their behalf in the next life, and I believe you can, he is doing that for us. He’s loving us–because the kind of love my dad gave me is forever.
I miss him.