In loving memory of Glenn
Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, my Dad made his exit from this world. While my sister and I knew he was winding down, part of us thought he would keep hanging on. I had a plane ticket to see him two weeks after he died. It’s hard to put everything my Dad taught me into words. Growing up, I was a “Daddy’s Girl” and have strong memories of running and jumping in his arms when he came home from work. My Dad was the person I always wanted to hang out with until the very end of his life. Here are just a few things he taught me.
Laughter is the best medicine
No one, and I mean no one, enjoyed a good belly laugh more than my Dad. Often this laugh was at someone else’s expense, including me. But my Dad was never mean about it. He just saw the humor in everything, and if something “tickled his funny bone,” he could not shut off the laughter, tears, and knee slaps if he wanted to.
Our family holiday gatherings were always hilarious, with gag gifts and jokes. I remember my Dad would play practical jokes with his co-workers when he worked for Fuqua Industries as a foreman. My Dad taught me humor helps you maintain a positive, optimistic outlook.
Take pride in ownership
My parents worked hard for everything they had, so ensuring they cared for those things was paramount in their daily lives. Dad always maintained and improved the house he built, worked in the yard, and cleaned and repaired his cars. He didn’t let things get in disrepair. If something needed to be fixed, he fixed it or found the right person to do the job for him. Even now, if my car is even the slightest bit dirty, I hear my Dad telling me it’s time to wash it.
Take a daily nap
I vividly remember my Dad saying, “It’s time for my siesta.” Dad was famous for not just his laughter but his ability to take an after-lunch nap. He and my Mom would eat lunch together and immediately lean back in the lazy boy recliner for an hour and rest. Then, when they were working at craft shows all over California, Dad would sneak someplace for some shut-eye.
Dad worked hard but also took time out for self-care before that was a thing with his daily siestas. So it’s not coincidental that he made it into his 90s.
Sports are fun
While I don’t remember Dad playing any team sports, he was an avid sports fan. My Dad taught my sister and me to love sports of all kinds. As a result, I have memories of watching the Thrilla in Manila, the Rumble in the Jungle, Monday Night Football and every Superbowl, The Wide World of Sports, Wimbledon, The NBA Finals, and The World Series. The only line I drew as a kid was golf.
Dad didn’t just watch sports with me; he encouraged me to play. I still have my Catfish Hunter softball mitt. Dad installed a basketball hoop above the garage, and I used my sister’s tennis racquet to hit the ball against the garage. He also gave me a fishing pole and taught me how to cast it in the driveway. We took bowling lessons, and he, my Mom, and I all had our own bowling balls. He encouraged me to play basketball, volleyball, and softball in elementary and junior high school.
Thanks to my Dad, I passed this love of sports on to my son, who played sports from age three through high school.
Don’t take sh*t from anyone
This one I specifically remember. I was going off to college at Fresno State and moving away. My Dad’s parting advice was, “Don’t take sh*t from anyone.” I was moving to Fresno because I had been dating a guy named Brad, that went to school there. Yes, that Brad that I’ve been married to for 33 years! This was my Dad’s way of telling me that as I headed off to start my life on my own, I had a choice in how people would treat me and shouldn’t allow anyone to treat me without respect.
Looking back, this fell into line with something my Mom was a fan of as a devoted Christian, “do unto others as you do unto yourself.” However, my Dad’s version had more of an edge, like in a Dirty Harry movie. Yes, Dad loved Clint Eastwood movies, and I think the moral of the story in those movies, whether it was a spaghetti western or classic Harry Callahan, was “Don’t take sh*t from anyone.”
Above is a tiny representation of everything my Dad taught me. My Dad would drop all those cliche quotes of wisdom, some good, some not so PC these days. Here are just a few I remember:
- Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
- Ask your mother.
- Don’t spend it all in one place.
- Because I said so.
- Your face is going to freeze that way. (This might have been my sister more than my Dad!)
- We’re not laughing at you; we are laughing with you.
- Look, it’s the boo-man’s house! (as we drove by rice dryers in the neighborhood. It would scare me, and this cracked him up.)
- Let’s play the quiet game.
- You live by my rules as long as you’re under my roof.
- Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? (OMG)
My Dad is teaching me one final lesson: how to grieve
When my Mom died in January, I was sad but also relieved for her. Watching her lose her memories over the years and end up in memory care was excruciating. I wanted her to be free from her disease. But, on the other hand, Dad was still the same when he passed. He might have been weaker and a bit confused at times, but he was still laughing, still making jokes.
Dad had been overwhelmed with sadness when my Mom died, and worrying about him distracted me from grieving my Mom. But, since the last few years of my life have included worrying about my folks, it feels wrong to be free from those worries.
An exchange that has stuck with me in my recent search for help with grieving comes from Stephen Colbert on Anderson Cooper’s podcast about grief, All There Is:
My Dad was a gift that I will always be grateful for.
And someone I will always miss every day.