I was my daddys girl. When I was little I absolutely adored my father, I wanted to be with him all the time. He was a complicated man, not really ready to be a father. He was a good looking man, with a lot of girlfriends, and an active social life. My parents were young, barely 20 and 22 when I was born. He took us on vacation every summer, we spent some weekends with him but for the most part we were raised by a single mom. I have always identified myself as being raised by a single mom.
As we got into our early 20’s we developed more of a relationship. It became more of a friendship. My dad apologized for not being there for us as children. He was honest, and explained that he had been selfish, hadn’t realized the damage he was doing to us, and we were all brutally honest with each other. It was the swinging 70’s, and he was enjoying his life as a single man. We forgave. Somewhat begrudgingly at times, and there has been residual damage, but we forgave.
In my 30’s I spent a lot of time with my dad. He was golf partners with my ex-husband, he spent a lot of time with us, we took a lot of vacations together. I was able to get the time with him that I had so craved as a child. He was fun to be around, a fun dad. He rarely raised his voice, did no discipling that I can remember. That wasn’t his job. My mom did the disciplining, she did the parenting. He was the friend, the fun one.
In my early 40’s, my dad was busy taking care of my aging grandmother. It was then that I really developed the respect for my dad as a father and as a son. He took care of my grandmother as she aged. She developed dementia, and he lived with her and took care of her. He had promised her that he would never put her into a home, and he kept his word. He quit golfing, rarely dated, he was a full time care giver. He never complained. We literally begged him to get help. Begged him to have someone come in and clean her house. He eventually got someone to help with her basic needs, but for the most part, he took care of her all by himself. He never complained. When he would come to Michigan to see us, we would go out to eat, and go to movies, all the things he couldn’t do at home because he was a full time caregiver. We worried about the toll it took on him. Some of the things he had to deal with were really hard. He got very quiet which wasn’t like him. Her aging, and decline in health and mental capacity took a lot of joy out of him.
She passed away in January of 2014, and he gradually started to live for himself again. He started golfing, exercised every day, he started ball room dancing and he loved it. He developed some new deep friendships, and he danced up until the night he died. We were so happy for him. His laughter came back, but there were changes.
He became more sensitive, more compassionate, more emotional. He cried. We talked. He talked to all of us about his feelings. He wanted to be a father, instead of just a friend. He started helping us, started coming to Michigan and doing things for us that he had never done. Last year when Mike was so sick he came to Michigan several times. He drove me to the hospital, went to the grocery store for me, sat with me. He went with me to a couple of Mikes doctor appointments, just for moral support. He babysat my 6 year old niece for my sister when she was sick in the late fall. He started calling her more, made more of an effort to keep in touch.
We laughed. Wow did we laugh. My dad was funny. He would sit with my sister, my mom, and me and just take it all in. Most of it was directed at him. We critiqued how he dressed. We made him buy new clothes, we made him cut his hair the way we wanted, we made him clean out his car. We made him do things that he had no interest in. He never remarried after my mom, and he was content as a single man to have a futon, a tv, and a microwave. We made him buy pillows, sheets, but he drew the line at decorative towels.
When I got the call on Sunday February 21st that he had died in his sleep on Saturday night, all of the difficult moments fell away from my memory. Only the good remained. This whole week as we planned his funeral, and started compiling his paperwork, and all of the things that make a life I have felt secure in his love and his presence.
My family expressed concern right up until the funeral whether i would be able to hold it together to speak. I was never worried. Although I am not a public speaker, I was not nervous to speak at his funeral. I was very calm. The truth is, he believed in me. He had enormous love and respect for us as his daughters. I felt his gentle spirit, and his love for us wrap it’s arms around us. A daddy helps his daughters develop self esteem, fills them with confidence, helps them get through difficult times in their lives with grace.
Daddio, it was a job well done.