Friday, September 16, 2005

In Loving Memory

Today is the 10th anniversary of the passing of a man who has had the most influence in my life… and always holds a most special place in my heart.

…Daddy… I miss you still…

A man of integrity and honor, full of teasing and humor… and love. He married Mama when she already had 4 children and then went about the very difficult process of adopting my older brothers and me.

There are a few things about my life and character that must be attributed to his example and teaching.

  • Always keep your word, no matter the cost to yourself.
  • If you say you will do something, do it. Period.
  • Learn to think for yourself.
  • Love your family, no matter what. They are the only family you will get. You don’t have to agree with them, just love them. It won’t be easy.

I knew I was adopted, but more importantly, I knew who my Daddy was… because the adoption didn’t matter as to who I am. He always loved me as if I were his biological child.

I remember going to the courthouse for the adoption. I was about 9. Mom made special dresses for my sister and I. My brothers all had their Sunday School clothes on… and we were not in school that day!

Our cousin was the family lawyer and he called us all into the judge’s chambers. Since we were all a little older, the judge actually asked each of us if we wanted to be adopted by Daddy… and I remember him asking me if I wanted Daddy to be my Daddy.

I also remember looking at the judge like he was an idiot. Of course I wanted him for my Daddy… he already was.

I remember Mama cried when the judge signed the papers. I remember going out for a special lunch that day after court.

I remember Daddy hugging Mama.

Most of my favorite childhood memories involve my blessed Daddy.

Going to the San Diego Zoo on Sundays.
Riding the Carousel in Balboa Park, over and over… while he waited patiently.
Visiting the International Hospitality Houses and sampling the international cookies. Getting a hand-made, fresh tortilla in the Museum of Man.
Holding Daddy’s hand and feeling safe.
Going to the Chicken Pie Shop in San Diego for dinner. It was the only “real” restaurant we could afford to go to as a family when I was growing up. $2.15 for a complete chicken pie, gravy, mashed potatoes and veggie dinner. Amazingly good… and still one of the best places to go in San Diego for a meal.

Friday night donuts… how do I describe those…

Daddy got off work at 2 a.m. We would go to bed on Friday nights… hoping… tonight might be one of the “special” Friday nights. It really might be one of the nights when Daddy woke us all up at 3 a.m. – because we had been good all week – with fresh, HOT donuts… each of us getting our absolute favorite donut, fresh and hot at 3 a.m. Having time as a family to laugh and enjoy a very special treat… and then going back to bed. Sleeping in on Saturday morning and waking to the memory of that wonderful treat. Knowing that none of our friends had such a fun Friday night surprise.

The smell of maple bars always takes me back to those Friday nights.

Diabetes took both of Daddy’s legs, but not his spirit and love of family. He strove to teach us something every single day of his life. Most times the lesson had only to do with his love for us.

It took a very long time for Daddy to learn to actually say the words, “I love you.” He showed his love in his everyday actions, but rarely said the words.

I was 26 years old the night before he lost his 2nd leg, talking on the phone with him and ended our conversation with my usual “I love you Daddy!” I almost dropped the phone when his reply was, “I love you, too, baby.”

It was the first time he had ever told me he loved me, in actual words. Of course I burst into tears after hanging up the phone… and had to explain to my worried roommates that my Daddy loved me!

Once said, it seemed he could not say it enough. Every phone call, every visit to him, every chance he got, he told each of us that he loved us. Precious music to our ears.

Daddy always made a point of making sure we knew he was proud of our accomplishments. From the small stuff to the big awards, his booming voice would always ring out… “I’m proud of you!”

The end was not simple, nor was it easy for Daddy. He had a massive silent heart attack that should have killed him instantly. Instead it destroyed ¾ of his heart, making him ineligible for even a heart transplant.

Once they figured out what was wrong with him, the doctor told him to do anything he had on his list. The doc could not say if Daddy had 2 minutes, 2 hours, 2 days or 2 years left. Just get your affairs in order and enjoy what time you have left.

The remaining time was a very hard 8 months. His body shut down gradually and very painfully. And yet, he remained true to who he was, a man of integrity and honor, full of teasing and humor… and love.

We had our last conversation on the day he died. I live in another state, so I was not there at the end.

Because Daddy was so weak then, my sister held the phone to Daddy’s ear for him. He was too weak to really talk, so I talked to him. I chatted like I normally would, telling him about my day and that we knew it was time for him to go. Then I told Daddy that I would hold in my heart 2 very special memories. Sundays when we would go to Balboa Park or the zoo and ride the carousel… and our Friday night donuts.

My sister told me later that he smiled his big, special Daddy smile when I said that.

What he said then, I carry in my heart to this day and forever.

“I love you, baby, and I am so proud of you.”

Time with Daddy… his voice… his laugh… his teasing… his pride and love…

Oh… how I miss you Daddy...

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Oh Sweetheart!

What an amazing tribute to your Daddy. They say time heals, but I don't think it does - it merely gives us the chance to get used to the new status quo - the void they leave behind can never be filled.

The loss of my wonderful mum left such a void in my life too. However, I try to fill that gap by embracing her memory, cherishing my family and enjoying my friends.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that my mother lives on through me. My life is shaped as much by her living as by her death. For to continue to live as happily as we can is surely the best tribute to our parents that we could possibly give them.

What I do know for sure is that your Daddy is *STILL* proud of his little girl; a girl who enriches all our lives each and every day...