remembering for him: a tribute to my Daddy

I lost my Dad almost a decade ago.

But really I lost him long before that… to that terrible thief Alzheimer’s.

And so today, on Father’s Day, I want to take some time and do the thing that he was robbed of: remembering.

My Daddy loved the water. Every time we visited West Virginia, he made sure to take me canoeing at Babcock State Park. In all our family travels, there wasn’t a hotel pool that we didn’t enjoy together. I remember in the beginning stages of his sickness when he confided in me: “I feel something special when I’m moving through water; I can’t explain it.” He was shy to say it, thinking it was one more confusing curse of his disease. But I got it. I get it. I share this with him always.

My Daddy loved being outside. He climbed rocks and played with abandon. He always pointed weeping willows out to me. He toyed with snakes while my Mom screamed in the background. I remember taking walks with him around our neighborhood. Every time we were visited by a cardinal, we stopped and he called to it. I still do that.

My Daddy loved music. I remember dancing with him in the living room. We would twirl and then he would shoot me through his legs and rocket me up in the air; it was magical. He had this special whistle melody that he sang wherever he went; to this day I kick myself for not recording it. During the holiday seasons, we would play Christmas tunes in the car and we would sing and whistle along. He loved Frank Sinatra and Yanni. Even near the end of his decaying mind, he would sit on the couch and put in his CDs and close his eyes and tip his head back and disappear into the sounds; music was one thing he could remember. And now music reminds me of him.

My Daddy loved being active. He taught me how to catch, putting in hours with me tossing around baseballs with our tried and true gloves. I remember how much he loved golf, and how much he loved it even more when his family was involved. When I was a child, he would tip a cup over on the shag carpet and we would lie on our bellies and pool-shoot the golf ball into it. Later in life, I’ll never forget that one time I chipped in for a birdie… both of us were surprised and overjoyed. My athleticism reminds me of him.

My Daddy loved being adventurous. He loved traveling and road trips. As I look back at pictures, I have so many with him all around the country. I remember a white water rafting trip that bumped him out of the boat into the rapids. I was paranoid but we just got him back in and moved on downstream. Horses were my Mom’s and my thing. But, despite not being interested and slightly afraid, he did it anyways on one of our yearly trips to Kentucky. I’ll never forget when his horse neared home and took off and galloped down the hill and my Dad was sprawled-eagle with arms and legs flailing in the wind and reins everywhere but in his hands and then he was on the ground. We laughed at that story for years. I live a life of adventure now, too.

My Daddy was selfless. When I was a teenager, despite him not really supporting my religious fervor, he drove me back and forth from Oak Park several times a week for various meetings. He had this mocking way of saying “Oakkkkkk Parrrrrrk” when I would ask, because it was so common and so ridiculous. But he still did it. He always asked me true questions about how I was doing and what was going on. (I still have regrets for not answering him when I could. Maybe this is why my love language is questions.) He was selfless even in his sickness. I was so scared he would be too far gone to walk me down the aisle. But he did it, even though he didn’t fully understand what was happening…and I’m sure he was afraid.

My Daddy LOVED my Mom. When we would fight, all he ever said was: “don’t talk to your Mother like that.” It was never about him, but about her. When they weren’t doing well, he would talk to me about it and what was wrong and how it could change and why was it like that; he was petrified of losing her. In his sickness, the conversations revolved around us taking care of her when he was gone. This shaped my pursuit of a husband, and I am blessed to have found someone that evokes this strength of my Dad.

I love you Daddy.

I remember you Daddy.

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