Many times you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. I always knew I had a wonderful father. But now that it’s been almost a year since he’s passed, the full impact of what I’ve lost is sinking in. Here are 8 traits he had that I believe go into making a great Dad…
He’s fun – My earliest memories are my father smiling and laughing. He always enjoyed doing kid stuff – building snowmen, throwing us squealing and laughing into the ocean, running behind as I learned to ride a bicycle. He loved neighborhood softball games, fireworks, taking Sunday drives, joking around the dinner table, and sharing a bag of salt water taffy. He loved being a Dad.
He teaches – Somehow my father survived tutoring me in math. We’d sit at the kitchen table where he’d patiently explain adding and subtracting…over and over. Multiplication and long division followed. When I was an adult, he miraculously taught me how to play the stock market. Up till the months before he died, we both loved watching CNBC together, following that ticker tape across the screen.
He’s an example – Dad was a self-made son of Swedish immigrants. College was an impossible luxury. Yet he pulled himself up from milkman to local salesman to a well-placed job in the software industry. As a child, I never wanted for anything (a gift not every child has) and that was because of my father.
He’s generous – Even though Dad never went to college, he made sure I did. My senior year of high school he took me to visit different campuses. I sometimes wondered what he thought of this academic world so different than the U.S. Navy he joined at 17. If he was envious about never having the same opportunities, he never let on.
He’s protective – One time our family was at a town little league game. I was 12 and stuck up a conversation with an “older boy” of 14. We walked and talked and before I knew it, we were in a dark, quiet part of the parking lot. My heart beat faster. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.
Then I heard my name. I turned to find my father standing about twenty feet away. “Laurie, I need you to watch your little brother.” Even though the boy was a good kid with probably no more than a kiss in mind, years later it occurred to me my father must have watched him and I walk farther and farther away. He’d gotten up and followed. He looked out for me.
He’s human – Like many men, my father became more emotional as he grew older. Of course, he got misty-eyed on my wedding day and when he held each of his grandsons for the first time. But there were other moments when his tears surprised me – the rare times he talked of the navy; an unexpected gift or compliment; reminiscing about his boyhood in New Hampshire. He’d have to stop and collect himself. I saw how his feelings ran deep even though he rarely spoke of them.
He cares – The last few years were tough. Dad had Parkinson’s disease and was in an out of hospitals. Even lying on a gurney with feeding tubes and intravenous needles in his arm, he’d turn to me. “What are the boys doing today?” He was always interested in his grandsons. I think of the times I’d come to him with a problem, from kid stuff to more serious when I grew older. He’d stop whatever he was doing and listen, his face concerned. He’d give the best advice he could, which was always good.
He’s strong – One of my father’s last words to me were, “Keep writing.” He could barely speak, let alone swallow. The bustle of the hospital went on outside his door. He had no life left, dependent on others for everything. And yet there was never a trace of self-pity. He was an incredible example of grace and dignity in the worst circumstance.
And then one day last July, he was gone.
And as this year has flown, the reality of his death – and what he gave — sinks deeper.
I want to believe he looks down on my mother, sister, brother, and me. He sees us laugh and sometimes cry. He cheers when we have a victory and sends comfort when we’re sad.
I want to believe my father’s still close.
I want to believe – somewhere – my father’s still smiling and laughing.
What thoughts do you have of your father? Comments are always welcome and if you like, please share. Thank you!