Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Dad

Today is September 14th. Two years ago today, my dad's struggle with cancer ended and he went to be with the Lord. Two weeks from today he would be turning 66 years old. He died way too soon.

He chose to be my mom's husband and a father to my brother, sister, and me 32 years ago. Notice the word "chose." It's important. Some folks feel like they got "stuck" with a step-parent. But I feel pretty humbled that I was chosen.

I only came up to about mid-thigh on him back then and I was fairly leary of the giant who had invaded our lives. Meanwhile my brother and sister climbed all over him like they were monkeys and he was a tree. I don't remember when he won me over, but he did.

I remember great times, like watching "Popeye" cartoons together when he got home from the night shift and mom had taken off for work.

I remember waking him up after "The Don Ho Show" so he could make my lunch and get me on the bus for kindergarten.

I remember him bringing home baby skunks he'd found on the roadside. There was a lesson in that. PU!!!!!!!!!!!

I remember he broke me of lying. His "rod" of choice? His tennis shoe. To the last year he lived, if something I said sounded outlandish, he'd ask, "Do I need to get my shoe?" lol

And how every time he passed my empty room with the light on, he'd flip it off and call out, "Fifty cents!"

I remember one year when he brought home a Winnie the Pooh birthday cake...FROM A BAKERY ::jaw dropping::...which was unheard of because Mom made all our birthday cakes and did a great job at them. But he saw a Winnie the Pooh cake...and he knew that there was nothing greater on earth to me than Winnie the Pooh, so he brought it home.

I remember coming home from my biological dad's house, sick as a dog because I was homesick, and crawling into Dad's lap in a big rocking chair and feeling so much comfort. I was home.

I remember him calling me "Scott" when I got my hair cut short. :( (Ok, I laughed.)

I remember him hiding my bubble gum in my taco at dinner one night. That was so nasty I bawled my eyes out. LOL

I remember the summer before eighth grade when our family was moving. He and I spent the first week in the new house, while Mom and my siblings finished things up at the old house. He slept on the trundle bed in my room because I was a 'fraidy cat and didn't want to be alone.

I remember him playing and rocking our foster babies and him laughing at Ewok movies and seeing him at my cross country races.

And a couple years later when I experienced the dreadful act of a peeping tom, he let me sleep with him (sorry for kicking you out, Mom...and thank you!) because I was so scared and shaken and needed to be near someone big and strong.

I remember when he walked me down the aisle when I got married. He looked so sharp in that tux!

I remember when he came to see my first newborn and held her in his arms.

I remember pictures of him making snow-angels so Mom could send photos of them to all the grand-kids.

And I remember when my marriage fell apart, how he helped me and my girls leave an abusive situation and live under his roof. I remember all the extra snack cakes and spaghettios and extra-double-creamy chocolate milk and all my favorite things he bought IN BULK to try to put some weight back on my bones. And without being high-handed or naggy, he'd peek in the pantry and see that there hadn't been much eaten and he'd gently and with a funny grin make some comments about me eating more.

I remember him grabbing up my girlies' pom-poms and cheering, "Cecil, Cecil, he's our man! If he can't do it, NO ONE CAN! Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, CECIL!!" And I remember him wrestling the girls around and them laughing and climbing on him just like my brother and sister did 32 years ago.

And I remember when I flew back for my first custody hearing. I was so scared of losing my girls...and facing my ex. I wanted so badly to hear the judge tell me I could take my girls and go back to Arizona with my dad and rebuild my life. But that didn't happen. The judge ordered me to return to Florida...and that I couldn't even take the girls back with me long enough to pack and return. I was stuck immediately. I was shattered. My dad was waiting in the hallway in case he was called as a witness. I remember walking out of that court room and seeing him standing there in front of this HUGE window and I went to him and sobbed. He stood there, holding me, like the pillar that he was.

I remember my mom telling me about his return trip after that, how he cried at leaving us behind.

I remember visiting him two months before he was diagnosed. I was posting a silly thread on the Wiggles Message Board...asking Greg all kinds of questions. He was in bed and would call out questions for me to post, like "What's up, Doc?" and others I can't remember but that made me laugh.

I remember sitting with him just a few months later as he drew a diagram to tell me about his tumor and the treatment options he'd been told. And I remember going to the doctor's appointment with him and mom and my sister and listening to what the road ahead was going to be like for him.

I remember a LOT of phone calls throughout that next year...funny ones...and as time wore on, heartbreaking ones.

I remember visiting him for the last time. I spent a week helping him lower his feet to the ground and putting on his slippers when he needed to get up and go to the bathroom, and raising his legs again and settling his pillows and blankets around him to settle him back into a comfortable position on the sofa. I remember helping him lay down on his bed...and helping him roll because he couldn't without help. And I remember what a balm it was to my soul to help him in the tiniest ways. I remember enticing him with popcorn, lol, because very little appealed to him and he was so thin.

I remember the morning we drove away. I knew I wouldn't see him alive again and wanted so badly to say my goodbye. But Dad wasn't ready. He still wanted to fight and didn't realize (or wouldn't let us know) that the fight was over.

I remember when he called just a couple days before he died, to tell me that he was dying. He said he didn't know what the Lord was waiting for. He was ready.

And I remember the day he died. I talked to him on the phone. I told him I loved him and would miss him. I told him that I saw Jesus in him. He said that he hoped so, and I assured him that it was so. It wasn't a long conversation. He didn't have much strength left. But I got my goodbye.

A man of God with quiet strength, gentle wisdom, and a hilarious wit...that's who my dad was. And I'm so thankful that God brought him into our lives. He was a blessing and I'm so grateful.

Here are just a few shots of him I have on my computer.

Dad, aka Pappaw, and Megan reading "A Wocket in My Pocket" with Dad's "son," lol, Javier, sitting on his knee.
Another of Dad, Meg, and Javier, lol. (Dad was SOOO not the lap dog type...or so we thought. Then along came Javier....)
Dad and my nephew having fun.
I love this photo. I need to get a big print of it and frame it. It's like a farewell. I used it as the closing photo of the slideshow I made for his memorial service.

So long for now, Dad. Rest in Peace.


Dee said...

Thats a beautiful tribute.

Mummy said...

Hill (((HUGS))) What a wonderful post in memory of an amazing man. It was lovely to read so many beautiful memories that you have although it got harder to read by the end as the tears were blotting out the words. You and your family are in my thoughts as ever. Love you. x

Sunshine said...

Hill. That was so wonderful. So sad and funny and beautiful. And sad. I can see why he was so special. What a GOOD man (gum in your taco and everything).

I wish I was in Florida to give you a very big hug right now. And Hostess cupcakes. I might have to buy some today and eat them as a tribute.

I love, love, love the part about him sleeping on the trundle bed. And how you needed to be near someone big and strong. I still feel that too about my own dad. He STILL makes me feel safe.

In the pics he looks kind of like Santa and Grizzly Adams...two of my very favorite big and strong men. And nice.

What a great picture of him on the bridge. You have some wonderful, wonderful memories. And I'm sorry you lost him so young. But I imagine the next time you see him, it will be something like him standing on that bridge waving to you.

Thank you for sharing. I know it's fresh, and hard, but I also know how good it feels to talk about someone you love so much that isn't here anymore. ((thank you))

P.S. You lived in Arizona? You know I totally grew up there, right?! We were SO destined to be friends! :)

Hillary said...

Thank you, Dee.

And mummy, thank you, too. It got harder to write by the end because of the tears, too. :)

Sunshine, thank you for everything, too. He WAS a GOOD man...despite that darn bubble gum taco. ::gag::

He always made me think of Santa and Grizzly Adams, too. Grizzly Adams was "big" about the time Mom and Dad met...and well...Santa's always been "big."

And about the bridge photo...I think you may have touched on something. I don't think it's the farewell aspect of it nearly as much as the idea of him someday waiting and waving as I come into view. I think THAT's the part that captures me. That'll be wonder-full.

And that "big and strong" thing we get from our dad's.... I think the fact that my dad was so big (6'4") is what makes me tend to be drawn to the big-n-tall men. Hmmmm...if I could only give you an example.

And lastly, about Arizona.... I grew up in Missouri (Kansas City area mostly.) But when I left my ex, my parents were just getting ready to move to Arizona. So the girls and I moved with them. We were at Dilcon...outside of Winslow.

Sunshine said...

WINSLOW?! Okay, I'm totally freaking out. First of all, NO ONE knows where Winslow, Arizona is! And Secondly I lived in Show Low, Arizona from 7th-12th grade!

Do you know where that is? Let's just say our school played Winslow in all the sports (and choir and band competitions...ha ha)!

Are you kidding me? Winslow. Too cool. Maybe not Winslow (ha ha) so much as just the idea that you actually know where it is. TOO FUNNY.

And yeah, I get the whole draw to tall and strong men because of our dad's. There's probably a couple books out there on the subject. So um...that doesn't really work with my hubby, does it? I MEAN...he is short. Or as WE like to say--AVERAGE HEIGHT. Ha ha...He is strong though. I swear. ;D

Love Ya!

Hillary said...

I know the name "Show Low" but I couldn't like drive there without a map or anything. But yep, Winslow...I've actually stood on the corner of Winslow, Arizona, seven women on my mi--- wait...there were NOT seven women on my mind. But I've stood on the corner...not for "business" reasons...just so I could sing that little line of the song.....and get my mail.

LOL @ average height. Yeah, I married one of those. Not next time though, lol. I'm holding out for some height. Because that's what counts, yeah, mmhmmmm. Tall. Groovy. Strong. Groovy. LOL