Dadisms II

by irms

“i can’t believe it’s been nine years.
does anything ever feel any different? can you pinpoint a difference between the third year and the fifth?
the second and the ninth?” – beth

Answer: The difference is, the number of things I remember gets smaller as I forget more and more about him. This truth feels shameful, and brings heartache. The number of things I treasure gets larger as what I do remember becomes more precious. This truth brings pride and a will to share my memory of him.

From time to time, I write about my Dad on this blog. He died on January 13th, 2003. If you didn’t have a chance to know him, well, I wish you could have. And if you did, then I hope you join me in remembering what he was like. All his obnoxious ways, all his quirky habits, how unique he really was. Sometimes I’m asked, “What was your dad like?” and to that, there’s only one correct answer, “He was super weird.”

My dad described himself as an “uneducated dirt-clod”. It’s true. He was both of those things plus uncouth, uncultured, and unconcerned with your opinion of him. In the same breath I’d tell you that he was the smartest, wisest man I’ve ever known, and I’d say the same if he weren’t related to me in any way. He was sage, he was humble, and he was a force to be reckoned with. He was a singular mix of  complicated and simple, but more than anything he was the sort of person who affected lives. His influence spread out and covered people like a blanket. Not through any conscious effort of his own, it simply did. It simply was.

Some moments I miss him in a desperate way, other times I just miss him. Sometimes I’m so overcome that I need to say it out loud, as all important things are said out loud; given a moment in time, a place in the air, some molecular structure to make them real.

Some memories are more difficult than others and crop up at the oddest times. Like this: [At the grocery store, present day] I reach in to grab a little carton of fat-free milk. The smallest one, so it doesn’t go bad. I see my own hand reach into the cold storage for the carton and I’m taken back to one of the blurry days following his death, shopping for my family. I’m standing in front of the glass case at the store. I remember looking at the whole-milk jugs thinking, “One gallon or two? I guess we only need one without dad.”

Sometimes, all I do is remember the little things and hope to keep them forever:

  • He was an ugly, formidable-looking man with beautiful green eyes.
  • He was afraid of heights, but he’d ride the ferris wheel if we asked him to.
  • He taught us: Don’t share, don’t get any.
  • He thought long hair was beautiful whether on a girl or a boy.
  • He’d ask my mom, “You know what?” She’d say “What?”…he’d say, “You love me.”
  • He thought the best way to get over being sick was to sweat it out, so he’d bury us in blankets and wrap us up like burritos and carry us to bed.
  • When we were kids and we dropped him off at work, he’d wave back at us with one hand. Then walk a little distance, turn back, put his lunchbox in his teeth, and wave with both hands. He’d walk a bit more, then turn and wave with both hands and a foot until mom was shaking her head. Looking in the car you’d see three kids waving back at him with two hands and a foot each — giggling out of control. He did it just to make us laugh and it worked every time.
  • He was chopping wood the day before he died. I wasn’t there, but I can picture him doing so.
  • Even though he was built like an ox, he didn’t think fighting was cool. He thought walking away was much cooler.
  • He’d let us jump off the roof and catch us in his arms. (Don’t tell CPS. 🙂 )
  • His favorite color was purple.
  • He had a rule that if you hunt and kill an animal, you have to eat it. Hunting for any other reason is dumb.
  • He used to buy those heart-shaped boxes of chocolate on Valentine’s Day. A big one for mom, smaller ones for us kids, and leave them on our beds to find after school.
  • He believed you could “wire windshield wipers to a duck’s butt if you know what you’re doing”.
  • He would tell people he had “good kids”, and that made us proud to be them.

We will be nine years without him on Friday. Day 1 and day 3,285 can feel heartbreakingly similar. We miss you, Dad, and thanks for everything.

P.S. I always appreciate the comments that get left on these posts. Once in a while, I go back and read them to laugh or cry or simply smile as the remark warrants. Thanks for taking the time to say something (anything). Your notes bring me comfort in unexpected ways.