A Daddy & His Baby Girl

Well, to be honest with you - this is a post I've been thinking about all week. Obviously this weekend is Father's Day & while I think about my dad every day, he has been on my mind a lot more the past few days. It seems like every few hours I get another solicitation email for Father's Day presents & I remember the fun I used to have getting my dad the "perfect" gift. He was always difficult to buy for once I got older b/c it seemed he always had almost everything he needed.

Ties? no go - he was retired so those were only worn a few times a year, if that.

Golf accessories? - nope - the man had more golf balls, tees, shirts, club gear than any human being could possibly use.

Bbq utensils? - not really, he just really wasn't into the latest gadget/trend for the bbq. He had his good 'ole grill (and I mean, really OLD) that he loved and could fix the best steak & hamburgers without the use of anything fancy dancy. And oh, man - those steaks. Melt in your mouth. He would go to a speciality meat shop to get just the right cuts of meat and spared no expense. Nothing I loved more in the summer than a "Daddy Steak" or "Daddy Burger", with just a baked potato and fresh tomatoes from the garden. ohhh, there I go again, rambling...

Anyway, he really didn't need or want for anything. I think he was just as happy getting a card or a phone call or just spending the day with us. But that never stopped me in my pursuit for the great gift. Funny now that I don't remember what "great gifts" I got him all those years.

But I do remember our last Father's Day together.

That year (in 2006), we went out to some friends' lakehouse on Lake Travis in Austin. The best part - we were all there. My brother, Blaine, my hubby, my mom. We spent the Saturday just relaxing out on their porch (where my dad was happy to just sit and watch everyone else drink copious amounts of alcohol while he just quietly sipped on his water!). That night we had great food & great company and just good quality time.

The next day (Sunday), we all went out to eat to this fun restaurant right on the lake. What I sadly recall is what a POOR mood I was in: I don't know if I was tired or what, but I just remember being nasty. I think I was having a "fat day" and proceeded to take it out on whoever was in my path. But Dad, being the dad he was, just pretty much brushed it off and loved me anyway.

We had to take a boat to get there & we were worried how rough it would be on dad's back - but he was always a trooper & if he was in pain, none of us knew it. That's just the way he rolled. When we got there, there was a huge expanse of steps you had to climb just to get from the boat up to restaurant area. For even the healthiest person, it was quite the climb. For Dad, it was darn near impossible because of his leg & back pain. But again, he made it (although we did throw him in a golf cart when we got to the top!) - and again, no complaints.

I remember talking to him on the way up there (I was always very protective of him and not wanting him to hurt) and I remember him proudly telling me how much weight he had lost recently and how he had no desire to go back to his heavier days. He was looking fabulous & trim - pretty darn good for a 62 year old for sure. He had been eating more healthfully & it obviously was working (Later, I would conclude that while the healthful eating was helping, more than likely it was the deadly cancer that was starting to affect his body but he just had no outward signs yet. That's the crazy thing about cancer - he looked the best he had in years right up until his diagnosis - which was only 3 months after that trip to Austin)

We had a great meal at the restaurant and for the first time in years, we took family pictures. Honestly, once we got older, the only family pictures we would take would be at Christmas (and even then it was just usually Blaine & myself and later, Matt) and maybe weddings. But for some odd reason, we actually had our camera and took several shots of the 5 of us - and a couple of Dad with his kiddos (man, I would post them, but they are now proudly hanging in my mom's house - this was before I was "hip" to the digital thing). I remember we laughed a lot and the 5 of us just kind of kept to ourselves down at the end of the table. Good times.

When we left to head back to H-town, Dad did what he always did whenever I would leave. He would give me a big, powerful hug & then whisper in my ear "Go treat yourselves to dinner or something nice" and then slide some bills into my hand. It didn't matter that I was married & out of the house - but he always wanted to take care of his "baby girl". It was his thing and his tradition. And the funny thing was, he always tried to make it seem like a surprise (when we both knew it was coming!) and he would ALWAYS try to hide it from my mom. Not sure why - but then it became kind of a running joke, cause my mom always knew. I obviously didn't love him because he gave me money - it wasn't about that - it was his generous heart and his desire to spoil his little girl --- he just never wanted me to "want" for anything.

And I never did. He was an amazing provider - and always took care of his kids above all else. He sacrificed so much for us. And he sacrificed quietly. It was only many, many years later that I found out just how many jobs he had turned down and offers of increasingly upper-level positions he had forgone because he did not want to uproot his family or spend longer hours away from home more than he had to. He wanted to be at the soccer games, baseball games, and all of our other various activities. Dad could always be found on the sidelines, quietly sitting in his chair with his UT cup of water beside him, and his crossword puzzle in hand.

Yes, I said crossworld puzzle.

The man was obsessed.

He did crosswords everywhere - restaurants, soccer games, on vacation, anywhere & anytime.

Some may look at that as maybe he wasn't being attentive or not fully involved. But he was. And his presence was what was mostly desired. Every once in awhile he would look up from his crossword puzzle, peer over his glasses, and deliver some cutting, sarcastic one-liner just so we would know he was listening.

Man, those one-liners. My dad was so clever and funny. He could toss those out so casually, and then just wait for the reaction. I remember my stomach just aching from laughing so hard. He wasn't a man of a whole lot of words. It's not like he just enjoyed hours and hours of conversation. He was comfortable with silence & secure in that. But his dry wit would just slay us all.

The best was Thanksgivings at our house, when we would have over The Whitehill's (Ed was Dad's best friend & probably knew him better than almost anyone). Dad would spend all night smoking the turkey to absolute perfection. He never said anything, but you just knew that he was so proud to get it "just right". He found the most delight in making others happy (and full!). We would finally sit down to eat and without fail, Dad would deliver sarcastic remark after remark, until eventually most of us were just crying hysterical laughter tears. Dad and Ed always had a great, easy banter between them and they would go back & forth until we were all rolling. And then Janice would always ask Dad to tell them same story every year and do it "in that voice". I can't really re-create the voice or the story on here b/c I will say that it wasn't exactly "PC" but always hysterical.

I literally could go on & on with dozens and dozens of stories about Dad. He was liked by so many, respected by all, and deeply loved by us. At his funeral, I heard the most amazing stories about Dad - the things he would do for others, the kindness he showed, the humor he exhuded. And most of the time, they were stories we had never heard. Dad was not one to brag about his generous spirit and was always incredibly humble.

I think the thing Dad was most proud of in his life was his family. We were everything to him. And he would have done anything, and often did, for us. He loved powerfully. Never would we get off the phone, leave the house, or kiss good bye without getting an "I love you". He was not afraid to share that with us at all. We were a tight-knit clan who always did everything together. I rarely recall my parents going out on a lot of dates by themselves and leaving us with sitters. Or going on vacation and leaving the kids behind. Some experts these days may say that it is unhealthy to do that, that couples need "couples" time and all of that. But my parents had an agreement - once the kids came, as much as possible, it was going to the 4 of us. Always. And my parent's marriage didn't suffer because of it - if anything it was stronger because of the mutual desire to raise their family intact. And I'd like to think he enjoyed us kids and wanted to hang with us:)

I'm pretty sure, even with all of the horrible things we did along the years, he found immense pleasure in seeing us grow up and become young adults. Young adults who hopefully made him proud on most days. My biggest fear was to disappoint my dad - not because I was scared of punishment or anything like that. But because, his respect meant everything to me and to lose that would have devestated me. He was my rock. My quiet, steady & stoic rock. And I was his "baby girl", just as I was on the day I was born and still am today at age 29.

So now today, I hope that he is looking down from his perch and seeing his two children who are happily married and well-adjusted adults - and he is smiling. And probably cutting jokes with Jesus at the same time.

Love you, Daddy! Today and always. Happy Father's Day...

Dad & me at an "Indian Princesses" campout - he was "Thundercloud", I was "Princess Raindrop" and my brother was "Lightning Bolt". Good times at the Y :)

Dad and me on my wedding day. Tough day for him to give away his little girl. But he did it in style, and delivered one of the funniest & memorable wedding toasts ever. To this day, when people talk about my wedding or even just talk about Dad, they are always like "I will never forget that toast at your wedding...."


Hope said...

so sweet. oh and from your comment on my blog, we do go to the same clinic! I go to Dr. Gill though :) I am still very new there, but really, really like it. I love the nurse Marilou.

Lisa said...

What an amazing dad. I'm very lucky to have known him. And he was lucky to have a sweet daughter like you.

Oh and yes I'm praying that next year is Matt's first father's day.

Amy said...

Happy Father's Day, Barry. Can't wait to see you again :-)