Thursday, January 28, 2021

Happy birthday, Dad.


  Today is my dad's 68th birthday and the first one without him here for me to call and say I love you. Honestly, my dad wasn't a huge on celebrating his birthday and never made a big fuss of it (maybe the byproduct of living with 4 girls?). Add to that the fact that I live 5 states away, and today really is just a normal day. I wouldn't be doing much more than sending a card and calling my dad to chat for a few minutes today if he were here. But it's these exact normal days and moments that make catch me off guard with grief more than anything else. This morning, I pulled two little frozen Snickers bars from the freezer (my dad's guilty pleasure) and sat at the kitchen table with my boys while they ate breakfast. They talked about the read aloud challenge coupons they earned today, Justin and I made a plan to call the pediatrician to check on what we think is an ear infection for our 5 year old and we gave a dozen reminders to the wiggliest one to stay in his seat and eat. And I thought about my dad the entire time. How many meals did he sit at with me over the years? How many times did he chat with my mom about doctor's appointments, listen to what I'm learning in school, remind me over and over to sit in my seat or be kind or finish my meal? Lately, it has just been stopping me in my tracks to think of the thousands of small, unseen moments my dad loved my in simple ways throughout his life. Grief is different for everyone, and for me right now it looks most like tearing up quietly at the breakfast table, parenting my kids and thinking of how my dad did the same for me. 

  But anyways, the best way I know how to celebrate and miss my dad simultaneously today is to sit with the weight of it all and write about the best parts of him (and eat a few more frozen Snickers). He's been gone 9 months, and today seems like the perfect time to recount the words I shared at his celebration of life this past summer. Miss you, dad. 💕

  Growing up, my dad seemed like the strongest person in the world. To me, it seemed that he could fix anything, knew how everything worked, and could figure just about anything out. I never remember our family hiring repairmen or letting problems go on for long without fixing them- he truly always did it himself. And he did it, for the most part, with no big to-do. He never seemed to see things as a big deal, instead just parts of life to be taken on steadily. And because of that, steady is one of the characteristics of my dad that sticks out the most to me. 

If you knew him, you likely depended on him. You experienced his steady, quiet, no fuss work ethic that persisted his entire life. 

He was such a good sport about being surrounded by 4 girls in our house and taught us things like if you never fart you’ll blow up, was the one who taught me to climb trees and catch frogs and the difference between sprint car and stock car racing and the art of a grilled peanut butter sandwich. Those were the obvious, silly things. But he also showed me what hard work looks like (he had the same job for 43 years, sometimes working 7 days a week, doing shift work, working on holidays, waking up at 5am and still finding energy to let us wrestle with him or argue over who sat next to him on the couch when he got home), always making sure we had a safe home and our cars were running and the driveway was plowed in the middle of winter. Those things were how he showed loved to those around him. 

It is because of those things that these last few years were the hardest for him. Dad was always so busy and active and doing, that it made it so hard for him to lose his strength and ability to keep doing what he had always done. As he became more sick, My dad was concerned that he would be forgotten. That we might not remember him. But that can’t happen, it won’t happen. My boys love catching frogs and critters- something they learned from me, and I learned from my dad. My sisters and I all inherently value hard work and being dependable- the very traits our dad passed onto us. Our entire family has learned to pay attention to the quiet ones, those who don’t speak often but when they do, you know you better listen- because my dad was like that. 

Honestly, I could go on for a long time about the things we will forever remember about my dad, especially his quiet, hardworking, and sometimes smart Alec character. We all probably have the best stories about him, how he helped you out or the trouble you got into together when you were younger. Share those with each other. And keep remembering the good ole days. My dad loved to talk about them, and I think it would make him smile so big to know he was now part of those good ole day stories 💕

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