Ten years ago today, my father died. It’s very, very hard for me to believe that it has been ten whole years that I’ve been rattling around in this world without listening to his jokes or seeing his handsome face.
One of my favorite things in the whole world was watching my dad being all serious-like, usually giving my mom a hard time about something or other. He would catch my eye and give me a quick wink and a barely- perceptible nod which meant, “Let’s see how long I can keep her going.” The longer it went on and the more riled Mom would get, the harder time he would have keeping a straight face. He would stifle a chuckle and his shoulders would start heaving up and down before he would let out a laugh. When my mom would realize he was pulling her chain she would get all the madder. I was always torn, whether to side with my mother or join in the laughing with my dad and risk pissing Mom off even more. I’m sorry, Mom, for all those times I just couldn’t help laughing. It was such a great feeling to share that little joy with my dad. He took so much pleasure in getting a rise out of you. And yeah, maybe he got a few too many chuckles at your expense, but, damn. That was how he was. It was one of his lop-sided ways of showing you how much he loved you.
It was hard for my dad to express love. He was 3 years old when his own mother died. He was raised by relatives and worked very hard for everything he ever got. The story of how he and his brothers each received a single, white dress shirt as their Christmas presents tears me up when I think of it. It totally humbled me when I learned that applesauce was a rare and special treat at their dinner table and was dished out sparingly. As I got older, it made more sense to me that my dad was a proud man and expected my sister, four brothers and I to take care of and respect our possessions. I don’t ever remember being denied a single thing I asked for as I was growing up. In return, we were expected to do our best, respect our elders and go to church every Sunday. In retrospect, that was not a lot to expect for all he gave us in return. While he was not a terribly affectionate man, his actions spoke volumes about how much we were loved.
And he was good. And he was honorable. And he was funny.
I’m not going to go on. I could for pages and pages, but I want to leave you with this. If you are lucky and your own father is still in your life, love the hell out of him, faults and all. There very well could come a time when you would give everything you own just to have his arms around you one more time…
… or in my case, hear him say, “I love you, too, Wink.”