Today is Dad’s birthday. He died 4 1/2 months ago. I miss him terribly, every day. In fact, this is the first time since he died that I have been able to blog– about anything. So I thought I’d dedicate my first blog following my hiatus to him. I think he’d like that.
Dad, you were always my hero, and I looked up to you even though lots of times you probably weren’t so sure about that. You gave me guidance and direction. You expected and encouraged me to take chances and often to step outside of my comfort zone. And you made me laugh. A lot. For that I will always be grateful.
When I was about 6 years old, you taught me to water–ski. When I mastered that, you taught me to drop a ski, then to get up on a slalom. When I was about 9 or 10, you were pulling me skiing on Lake Okoboji in Iowa when the patrol pulled you over for going too fast near shore. Not surprisingly, you argued that indeed, you were only going 10 mph.
“Nobody can ski at 10 mph,” the suspicious boat-cop challenged.
“My daughter can,” you argued.
When I asked you what I was supposed to do, you told me “Just get up, and for god’s sake, DON”T FALL!!!!”
I got up, I didn’t fall, the ticket got torn up, and I got ice cream.
When I was 7, I begged you for a pony. Begged. Every day. For my 8th birthday, you presented me with Popcorn, the orneriest little Shetland Pony this side of the Mississippi. He had been tied up behind a lumber yard, and you offered $30 for him. Popcorn had never had a saddle on his back, so you bought an old, used, smelly saddle for me to break him in with. It took days and many bumps and bruises to saddle-break Popcorn, but you were proud the day I came triumphantly trotting by.
You bought an old, rusty, dilapidated jeep and fixed it up. You painted it yellow and put big daisy stickers all over it. You also put a big sticker on the door that said “God Bless Tiny Tim”. We all loaded up in the jeep, including Popcorn, his head sticking out the back window, and proudly drove through town like the Beverly Hillbillies.
Together we planted hemlocks around the little lake you built on top of Pine Mountain. You named the cool underground spring that fed the lake “Julie’s Spring”, and you always kept a bottle of good Ky. bourbon cooling in that spring. It was only a matter of time until I was sneaking back there to indulge myself, and often a friend, in your “hidden” stash.
Sometimes when a storm was coming, you and I would get in the jeep and drive to the lake just so we could sit on the porch swing and listen to the rain pelt the roof. Just sit. And swing. Together.
We had a yearly tradition of swimming across the lake. I was secretly terrified of the many snakes there, sure one would bite me underwater, but I felt safe when we swam together.
You loved holidays, especially the candy-centric ones. Every year, on the day after Valentine’s Day, Easter, or Halloween, you drove to Walmart or the drug store, or both, to get first pick of the half-off bin. Mom would scold you, “Oh, for God’s Sake, Herb, we don’t need more candy!” But she would be the first to rummage through your cache for the chocolate bunnies or malted milk balls. I blame you for my extensive dental work.
On a trip to Wisconsin, you bought, like, 100 pounds of cheese. Then you forgot about it and left it in the trunk. We accused you of farting all the way to Iowa until we found the cheese a week later.
When I went to graduate school, you thought I was wasting my time on a Social Work degree. But when I came home for vacations, we would sit up until the wee hours of the morning, sipping libations, me listening to you unload your burdens. It was worth it.
We’d watch sappy movies and both cry.
When I married the wrong man (first marriage), you told me at the door of the church it wasn’t too late to change my mind. I wish I had listened to you then. But you continued to be my rock and support me, and you never said “I told you so” when I left him a year later.
Always looking for a bargain, we found a yard sale down the street from my lake house in Georgia. You were beside yourself, bargained hard and bought it all. I learned my superb bargaining skills from you, and Jeff and I both thank you for that.
I cherish the many evenings you and I spent sitting in the park across from your house in Naples, watching the sunset. It was Our Time.
When you were sick, towards the end, we poured over old photo albums and reminisced about our lives. You were at peace, and repeatedly told me what a great life you had. I was comforted by the fact that you weren’t afraid.
I miss you every day, Dad. But I will forever be grateful for what a great Father, and friend, I had in you.
I’ll always be your little girl.
I love you.