Saying Goodbye

You grow up thinking your parents are indestructible. My mom has always been the rock of the family. And Pops? Well he could handle anything that came our way. Looking back on my childhood, I suppose Dad wasn’t quite as handy as I thought. The tools in the garage may have always gotten used, but the cars often dripped some kind of fluid. We may have picked out our own Christmas tree from atop the mountain, but there was often a trip to the hospital and stitches involved. The patio and yard walls may have gotten built, but they often leaned a bit. And the roof may have gotten re-shingled in the middle of summer, but there were many bent nails along the way.

This isn’t some flowery tribute to a perfectly flawed man. I remember having family barbeques and guests gushing to me about how lucky I was to have such a sweet father with an amazing sense of humor; it made me gag. I barely remember him ever even speaking to me as a kid and he certainly wasn’t cracking jokes at breakfast. The only time he acknowledged my existence was when he was yelling about something I may or may not have done. He would come home from work and we’d do our best to disappear while he sat in his chair, reading his newspaper, and nodding off until dinner. The same nonsense would occur after dinner, unless one of us caused a commotion that interrupted his snoring. He and mom sacrificed so much for us kids that attention for each other just took a back seat.

After his retirement, I saw a different side of my father. The endearing, goofy guy that others knew all along finally showed himself to the family. His craftiness was spent on his children’s homes and his eyes glistened as he played with his grandchildren. He had a different pair of suspenders for every day of the week and he basked in our teasing of his ensemble. Time spent in his chair with the newspaper became interactive as he would shout out crossword clues that had him stumped. He still wasn’t perfect and often drove me nuts, but I got to know the man who gave me life and I enjoyed his company.

I am thankful for the “no-nonsense”, “get your hands dirty” character my father instilled in me. There were a lot of life lessons he taught me, both through conscious effort and his actions. Heck, you may have to hold the handle down, but I fixed that damn toilet myself! And the fire extinguisher was on standby as I replaced all the light fixtures in my house, but they look darn pretty! Despite being the baby of the family, I spent many years observing and mimicking independence and strength; my greatest asset and perhaps my biggest downfall.

My dad passed away this holiday season, quickly and relatively quietly. He wasn’t angry or miserable. His aging body was beginning to take hold and I think it was a good time for him to pass on to the next life. Some of my family and friends have expressed concern over my reaction, and some will likely be upset that I’ve turned to an online outlet. But dad was one of my first subscribers to this blog and, while I haven’t posted often, I suppose it’s been our way of keeping in touch. I know Pops was proud of his growing family; he never hesitated to express his pride in me. And perhaps that’s all I really needed from my father. I’m thankful I can say goodbye and remember him now with a fond smile and a glistening eye.

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