A long time ago, I wrote about one boy in my life, but there are two others always on my mind. Now presenting: Faather. (Brother intro at a later date.)
Yes, Faather. Also known as Big, Big Pig, Dad, Pops, Richard, Crabbio, Crabbio Le Faather, Jim, James, and suddenly Diego.
My dad is the guy I’ve loved longest. I’ve been a daddy’s girl my entire life. If I had a scanner hooked up in this joint, I’d scan a photo from my baptism where my mom is smiling like a model at the camera, my dad is looking at me, and I’m gazing back at him like he’s Superman. I was five weeks old.
My favorite memories of my early childhood take place in the backyard, and he’s in almost every one. We had a log back at the edge of our property that we’d sit on when I was about three or four. It was our thinking spot. We’d go back there after dinner and my dad would let me babble away about whatever was intriguing my never-sleeping kid brain. We’d check the hickory shells for nuts the squirrels had missed and pile them somewhere for a lucky squirrel (or whatever other animals wandered into our yard… usually deer but one time we found cows out there. Story for another day). I remember when my dad built his shed in the backyard to store the tractor, lawnmower and all his other woodworking and yard tools. There are pictures of me standing on the platform before it was walled in. I’m wearing a green floral-print shirt and shorts, and I’m definitely carrying a purse.
We hung out in my kiddie pool, my dad patiently tolerating me dumping buckets of water on his head. There are pictures of me sitting on his lap in a deck chair, with his beer bottle at my lips. Yes, I was probably about two when this was permitted and yes, it’s likely that there was still beer in the bottle. I like to think I turned out ok in spite of this.
He continued as a devoted father as I got older. I remember one birthday party where he sat in a chair in the middle of the yard and let me and my friends throw water balloons at him. If we hit him, good for us. If we missed, he sprayed water from the garden hose on us. Good times.
We hit a rough patch when I was 14. I’m using the term rough patch very loosely. He yelled at me like 12 times for talking on the phone too much and spending too much time with my first boyfriend. Typical things. By the time I was a mature 15 year-old, it had passed.
As the years passed, I began to appreciate my father more and more. He retired when I was 15 after nearly 40 years with the same company. He worked his way up from a maintenance man to a safety director position with a chemical company. He was a role model for working hard to provide for his family. He was very present for my brother and me. And he made efforts to be as present as he could for his four kids from his first marriage that moved 12 hours away with their mother.
I also learned to appreciate what it means to be a supportive spouse. My parents were utterly committed to one another. It eventually occurred to me that what they shared wasn’t guaranteed to anyone. I had friends with divorced parents, or parents who were married but could barely stand each other. I was fortunate to grow up in a house where affection was openly shown between Mom and Dad, and “I love you” was said daily. My mom had gone back to work a few years after he retired, but they were looking forward both being retired and spending those years together. I was looking forward to it too. They deserved it.
Mom and Dad :)
But, as anyone who reads this blog knows (and I do mean anyone… pretty sure it’s not anymultiplepersons), they didn’t get these years. My mom worked until she was diagnosed with cancer, and never returned. They had days together in the house, but not under the circumstances anyone wished for.
While caring for my mom, I gained a new respect for my father. A friend who went through the loss of his mother a year before me said it best – “…As I look back, my dad went from good guy to true hero. It really shows what a true life partnership can bring.” The love I already felt for my dad grew exponentially each day as I witnessed the way he cared for my best friend – my mom.
He was at every doctor’s appointment, and every chemo and radiation session. When she was practically living at Good Sam, he spent almost every night there. (The only ones he missed are the ones I offered to take so he could get a decent night’s sleep, and I think two nights when the snow was too bad to get there.) He administered her pills, made her food, took on responsibilities to keep the house running, helped her to the bathroom, bathed her, and so much more. He treated her with the respect she deserved, working tirelessly to preserve her dignity. And while serving as her caretaker, he never forgot that he was her husband too. It was probably the most beautiful display of love you could possibly observe.
Her death left him broken. His life partner was gone. And because he’d given up everything in his life to care for her for sixteen months, I think he was left feeling a little bit like he didn’t have a purpose after she was gone. This improved, slowly but surely, and though I know he’s still lonely, time has helped. He busies himself with the house and garden, and my brother lives with him. When TJ and I lived in the house for a few months before we bought our own, I was pleased to see his progress. He was finding ways to go on with his life.
I know I’m lucky to have such a strong relationship with my dad. He worked most of his life, and I feel it’s unfair that he was robbed of the “reward” he deserved – a retirement with my mom as his companion. I know he feels that way too. I admire him for pushing forward. I realize he’s not without faults, but to me, he really is the model of a real man. Kind, strong, honest, funny, humble – and committed to his family.
Dancing at my wedding reception.
Reeeeeeally dancing at my wedding reception... getting fancy!