A Tribute to my Dad
I’ve been debating for several months now on whether I would share something so deeply personal, but I’m doing so not only to help others with their loss but also as therapy for me. This seems ironic, but I actually have a hard time speaking about my feelings. Teaching and even speaking to massive crowds is a breeze, but when it comes to sharing about how I feel, I simply clam up. So, writing out my thoughts is my way of therapy I guess. Please don’t think I’m writing this for sympathy (my mom always said if I wanted sympathy, to look it up in the dictionary) But I truly want to help others who may have lost a loved one recently as well. Not that this will take away the pain or loss, but simply make you realize that you’re not alone in your grief.
You see, exactly 1 year ago today I lost the closest person in my life- my dad. (I’m very close to my mom too- she’s one of my best friends)
My dad and I have always been extremely close. Even before I was fully delivered, my dad was holding my head up and I grabbed onto his thumb. My mom said I had him wrapped around my finger ever since. I’m not even sure why, but I’ve always been a daddy’s girl. We understood each other like no one else, probably because we were so much alike. Both hard working, creative, slightly opinionated, and very stubborn.
My dad was the smartest person I know. He was a jack of all trades and could make, build, paint, or fix just about anything. He loved music and played trombone his whole life; I guess that’s where I got my musical gift from. (I used to be a music teacher). My favorite times with my dad were us playing duets together- he would play trombone while I played piano. ”No Marlena, start at measure 3 and slow it down a little”. I don’t know who loved that time more- my dad or I.
Every month we’d go on a “date” and would go to dinner then go shopping or sight seeing. The entire night he would reminisce of his younger days or when he and my mom were dating. He’d go on for hours just talking, but I didn’t mind as I knew he loved his life and wanted to share his memories with his only daughter.
My dad was someone that always made my day better. When I came home from school after being made fun of for being the chunky kid, my dad would always state about how pretty, smart, or talented his daughter was. I’m not sure how I would have made it through my teen years without such a loving dad. He always made people laugh with his corny jokes and would give the biggest bear hugs. My Nonnie nicknamed him “Teddy Bear”.
I knew for quite awhile that I didn’t have much longer with my dad as he had been slowly losing his health. There’s nothing worse in this world than watching someone you love so much slowly slip away and not being able to do a thing about it. Nothing prepared me for the day when my dad told the doctors that he didn’t want to suffer in the hospital anymore and wanted to go home. That final month with him was spent wondering if today was “the day”. It was difficult sleeping each night wondering if when I woke up, my dad would be gone. The sound of the oxygen tank still causes me nightmares.
I would sit by his side and watch him sleep- the outer shell of the dad I once knew. Barely breathing, eating, or even talking. Just moans of pain and grasping for air- sometimes turning blue, causing sheer panic for my mom and I. I don’t wish that experience on anyone. I kept praying for a miracle, hoping that the dad I once knew would come back- even for just 1 day. The dad that would talk endlessly for hours, drink his coffee while watching cheezy John Wayne movies, and crack himself up with his corny jokes.
The day that he passed, my mom and I just knew it was going to be his last day. I thought I would be strong enough to see him go, but I just couldn’t bring myself to see him take his last breath. I have many regrets for that, but I didn’t want to remember that moment. I wanted to remember all the good memories with my dad. My mom stayed by his side while I gave him a kiss, told him how much I loved him, and said my goodbye. I drove around town aimlessly in a foggy daze, crying, and secretly hoping this was just a nightmare. When my mom called, she said “I think you should come home now.” That’s all she said, but I knew.
It sounds crazy, but as I drove back to my mom’s house, a sudden gust of wind and leaves blew straight towards me and passed behind the truck. It was otherwise a calm Fall day. I truly believe it was my dad giving me one last hug and kiss as the angels carried him away.
There’s not a single day that I don’t think about my dad and miss him like crazy. I still pick up the phone to call him and tell him all about my day. If I could give up every item I own, every penny in my bank account, and every level of “status” or whatever else is connected to my name, I would. I would give it all up just to spend one full day with my dad, because I just miss him that much.
I miss you so incredibly much, and wish you were here to see everything I’ve been doing. I’m hoping you are proud of your daughter, as you definitely were an influence on her life. I know you’re still with me as I feel your presence, but it’s just not the same here anymore without you. Mom misses you too, but we try to be strong for each other as I know that’s what you would have wanted.
I still have your trombone and will keep it safe. I also still play the piano from time to time- hopefully you can hear it. I send a prayer your way every time I sit down to play. I’m a bit rusty, but at least I’m still playing! I finally made it to Paris and Italy- I took lots of pictures and went to places I thought you would like. Don’t worry dad, the business is doing pretty good and I remember all your advice.
I love you with all my heart…