Monday, September 10, 2012

Remembering...with a smile

While most of the world thinks of today as, "the day before Sept. 11th...the worse day ever", it holds a different connotation for me.  Sept. 10th is the date my Dad died.  How in the world can that have happened 17 years ago already?

Hold on, it's not going to be one of those morbid posts.  Can't be.  Dad and I shared the same silly sense of humor, so that's not allowed.  He had cancer and we handled it together, sometimes while actually giggling...which made the medical staff question each other over what drugs had been prescribed.  And to whom.  The only moment, other than the reality of the diagnosis itself, that I ever wanted to take back was one of those Freudian slips of the tongue which happened out of sheer anger braided with frustration.  

We walked out of the initial diagnosis and I didn't know what to do.  I was the KID for heaven's sake, even if I was in my 30s.  I was use to a parent reassuring me that everything would be okay.  I'd never had to come up with something reassuring, with a side order of encouragement, minus any sappy sweetness that would smack of the insensitive.

My mouth opened and went straight to insensitive, minus the sugar, as I muttered, "Life's a bitch."

To which my Dad responded, without missing a beat,"...and then you die."

If ever life needed a reverse button, that was it. 

The truth is, Dad should only have been around six months past that day.  The doctor would tell me later it was the fact Dad and I refused to put away our sense of humor that made the man stay around for almost five more years. My guilty secret?  At his funeral, I didn't cry.  I smiled.  I'm sure many people thought it was some sort of hysterical reaction.  It wasn't.  Dad and I had talked about what to do when that day came... Sept. 10th, as it turned out.  My Mona Lisa smile was because rather than be caught up in life's sudden rush of funeral homes, caskets, suits, flowers, music and burial plot, it wasn't a shock filled blur.  We'd done that planning years before.  Once Dad finished the pre-emptive strike of planning, we concentrated on the LIVING part.  The here and now.  Walks down Memory Lane.  I didn't miss my chance to say anything I wanted, or needed to say... and neither did Dad.  

During that time Dad once mused that he wouldn't be able to leave us a large sum of money.  I remember replying that he earned his money and I wished he'd spend it all on HIMSELF before the ride was over.  He didn't.  But I did talk him into a new car.  And the boat, motor and trailer he'd always wanted.

Dad left me more than some financial security, his sinus problems or verbal instructions on how to change a flat tire.  He left me memories.  And even in this economy, those are still valuable and not subject to taxes. 

So today I salute the Wisdom...and Sense of Humor... of Dad.

The man who instilled the message, "Safety first!"
yet let me stand on the front seat of the car 
and hand him newspapers when he had a Sunday route. 
Then again, that car was built like a tank.

Plus, you had to know Dad's "younger" version of safety.
During his 4 year stint in the Navy, 
he took this from the deck of his ship
DURING Hurricane Hazel. 
(Why yes, the deck IS sideways and almost in the ocean). 

To be fair, 
 I once asked him what was at the edge of the ocean,
(the horizon...for all you adults out there)
to which he replied, "Wonderful lands.  Wonderful people!" 

I believed him because he'd been in the Navy.
(And he was Dad)
I'd seen photos of Naples and Casablanca...
long before my existence was even a passing thought. 
Having "met" all of you, 
my invisible cyber friends,
I'd say Dad was right.
(He's also the only sailor wearing clothes in this photo!)

Dad told me to be careful and never get on a motorcycle.
Hubby (then Boyfriend) had one of those.
They were dangerous, Dad declared.
I chose to interpret that as "motorcycles", not the Boyfriend.
And then I found this. 

It wasn't bad enough I found this in Grandma's photo album. 
Oh no.  I had to add...
"How could it be dangerous if you took puppies for a ride?"

Grandma's photo album, by the way, 
was a wealth of humorous material.
If your parents declared they couldn't afford a horse,
what could a guy do but put his sense of humor into play?

as your First Born ,
I always knew we had a special bond.
Cool thing is, I always knew you had my back.
Even when telling me to stay off motorcycles. 

I hope you felt like I had your back 
when the time came for me to return the favor.


Ponita in Real Life said...

Hugs and a smile for lovely memories of your Dad, Hope.

My dad's been gone 23 years now... and I have those kinds of wonderful memories too. Although not his first born, I was the only girl (out of four) who would tag along as he built something or repaired the car, along with my two younger brothers. We had a special bond too.

I hope your smile today isn't that Mona Lisa one... because your recollections and photos certainly brought a smile to my face!!

hope said...

Ponita: nope, my sense of humor won out in the end. :) Weird as it sounds, I'm glad Dad didn't have to see 9/11. One of the weirdest chemo sessions was us watching the news...which turned out to be the Oklahoma City bombing, by one of our own. I'll never forget the odd sensation of watching what Dad called "toxic waste" going into him via I.V. as he sat there, absolutely horrified at what he was watching on the screen. It was as if his own problems no longer existed.

Winifred said...

That was a lovely post. You just don't think they should leave you. You have some wonderful memories and some beautiful photographs too.

mapstew said...

Firstly, a BIG IRISH HUG my dear friend. xxx

10th September is my Da's Birthday, he should be 89 today. And I bet he'd still have that heid of wavy hair! (I get my hair from my Ma's side!! ALL her bro's were lacking in that dept!) :¬)

What a fine,clever and handsome man your Da was. :¬)


savannah said...

xoxoxoxxo sister hope! what a wonderful tribute and remembrance of your Daddy! ;~)

Thom Robinson said...

My dear sweet friend Hope. This had me smiling from word one until the very last word. What a man and what a relationship. I know your Dad is looking at you right now and smiling as well. Boy having one's back doesn't come all that often but when it does it's better than anything else in the world. What a wonderful post.

Me Ke Aloha

Chef Files said...

Nice sentiment hen, the respect you have for your faither is priceless. He sounds like he enjoyed being a real man and a real faither to his wee princess.

hope said...

Winifred: thanks! He was a good Dad, something I even realized as a kid when I looked around the neighborhood.

Mapstew: I needed that hug, thanks. :) I use to tease Dad about all that wavy looking blond hair he had as a kid, which turned brown and fine (like mine) and eventually led to his favorite line, "My hair didn't turn grey, it turned loose." I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my hair doesn't follow suit. ;)

Sav: Thanks! Southern girls and Daddy are a one-of-a-kind species. :)

Thom: I know Dad wasn't perfect...I'm not and I obviously have his DNA. :) But he was a stand up kind of guy and those seem few and far between. I know, cause I married one.

Chef: I use to say Dad had the patience of a saint because I would get interested in the oddest things at the weirdest moments: like what was under the hood (bonnet) of the family car when he was trying to work on it...which led to me learning the names of all the tools, cause if you were going to ask questions, you might as well be able to hand over a phillips head screwdriver. :) Culinary tidbit: Dad's favorite "dessert" when nothing sweet was in the house? Waffles! He'd go make himself a waffle and declare it as delicious as cake.

Titus said...

Ah hope, what a moving post. Sounds like a wonderful man, and a life fully lived. And then, to live on in loved ones' memories - well, that is immortality.

Pat said...

I also had a special relationship with my Dad and - like you, I expect, always feel him nearby.