My dad, a love story

My dad passed away today.  He has been sick for several years with a horrible disease called Multiple System Atrophy or MSA.  We always knew it would take him from us some day, but the timing was completely unknown. He went into the hospital with some weakness, seemed to rally, and then very suddenly and very unexpectedly stopped eating and drinking. And then we knew. Mom called in hospice and brought him home. I hurried up to Indiana and told him I loved him. He told me he loved me too. I rubbed his feet (one of his favorite things), and we sat quietly with him until he went to be with God.

Like many girls, my dad was my hero.  I don’t really know how to do life without him. He taught me so much about how to truly live.

I have so many wonderful memories and life lessons. Like the day when I was a teenager that he sat me down and visually explained credit card debt using pencil and paper.  I have never had a credit card balance in my life thanks to that lesson. I also have a near perfect credit rating due to his insistence that you don’t owe people money, you pay your debts ahead of time, and you live a financially responsible life.  He and my mom paid cash for almost every car they ever owned.  He invested wisely so my mom does not have to worry now that he is gone. We were never rich, at least in the way society defines it, but we were always secure.

We went on a family vacation every year.  They were fun, although sometimes a bit regimented.  One might have thought my dad used to be military based on the schedule he set for our travels. But they were amazing and I have vivid memories of caverns and Disney and San Antonio and so many other wonderful adventures.

My dad was a tall man with a deep booming voice. He intimidated the HELL out of potential boyfriends in high school.  They had to come to the door, ring the doorbell, and meet him before I could go out.  He gave a firm (probably bone crushing) handshake and said, in his deepest baritone, “Hello Young Man, come in.”  He was never a dad who threatened bodily harm if I wasn’t home in time; once they saw and heard him, it simply was not necessary.  And I never told them that he was actually a ginormous teddy bear; it was our little secret.

My dad rarely gave advice, so when he did, I usually listened.  Like “Regrets are a waste of your time. You can learn from the past, but you need to live for today.”  Or when I was choosing whether to accept UNC or Duke for my MBA, and he said “I understand what you are saying about their rankings, but if you don’t intend to live in NC for your entire life, a whole lot more folks will be impressed by a Duke MBA. You should go there.”

My mom and dad were married for over 50 years. Theirs is the ultimate love story. They truly enjoyed each other’s company. They continued to date and travel and golf and do life together until dad got sick. They said “I love you,” often followed by “forever and 2 days,” every single day.  My dad adored my mom and she was his rock through his entire illness.  To the very  end, he looked for her when he needed any sort of comfort or reassurance that all was well. And she never left his side. She stayed in the hospital and fed him and brought him home to finish his journey in peace. She sat beside his hospital bed, gave him kisses, bathed him, shaved his face, held his hand, and gazed into his eyes with the most brilliant love I have ever seen. I am so blessed to have grown up as their daughter, even if I never could replicate their love story.

dad-bears

These gingerbread men have been in my parents house forever. I don’t know if dad bought them for mom or vice versa.

Most of all, my dad was proud of me. And I knew it. He was proud of my heart and my intelligence and my degrees and my work with IBM and my commitment to Horse and Buddy. During my high school and college years while my dad was working, I would meet up with him for lunch and his friends knew all about me before I ever met them. It’s hard to explain how much that means to a daughter.

Anyone who knows my family or sees us on Facebook quickly realizes that I am the spitting image of my mother.  I’ve often wondered if any part of me physically resembled my dad.  We won’t talk about the stubborn streak or hard-headedness. We all know those came directly from him. But as I was sitting with him in his final days, he lifted his hand in the air.  I looked at that beautiful hand, the one that held mine so tightly when I was a little girl, and realized that all his fingers bend backwards, just like mine.  It may have been his final gift to me.

I will miss him forever.

I love you Papa.  SO SO Much.

JanJan

dad-and-janet