Sunday, May 29, 2011

For my dad on his birthday

So much of me
Is made from what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart

- Elphaba, Wicked

Today is my dad's birthday. He would have been 62 (and probably not all that happy about it), but he passed away nine years ago. People say it dealing with a loss gets easier with time but really, it just changes. 

There's a much longer story to tell, but it is not an exaggeration to say losing my dad had a major impact on my life. I was 23; technically an adult, but really still a baby. I had a little bit of a warning, but it was still a huge shock to the system. I was told he might have 6 weeks to live, but 11 days later he was gone. As the oldest child, I took care of many of the details. There are some things I would change if I could, but I think I did the best I could.

Time has passed, life has moved on, and I am finally at a point where I can control the tears (mostly) and focus on the happy memories. I also find myself thinking about the things that he has missed, both big and small. I am sad that I never really got to have a relationship with him as an adult. I know that my adult relationship with my mom is incredibly special and so eye-opening. Now with some perspective, I really appreciate all of the the things my parents did for me as a child. I would give anything to be able to tell my dad "thank you". 

I also think about some of the silly things. Like iPhones. I think he would have LOVED iPhones. I'm sure he would have needed a bit of technical support from his kids, but I think we all would have laughed (and rolled our eyes, lovingly) seeing him play with one silly app after the next. 

Of yes, there would be angry birds
Photo credit: Tecca
Also, Curb Your Enthusiasm. My dad was the BIGGEST Seinfeld fan, and I think he would have been thrilled with even more neurotic awkward social interactions to chuckle at. (And at this age, he *may* have started to resemble Larry David. Just a little.)

And he would have LOVED Audrey the Dog. After he passed away, someone offhandedly said to me "Oh, what a shame he didn't have any grandkids" (note: not a good thing to say to someone who has just lost their parent). It is true, he would have been a fantastic grandpa to human children, but I know that he would have absolutely adored having a little grandpuppy. 

His death was a big motivation for me to start taking better care of myself years ago -- I lost a lot of weight after he died (and I needed to), mostly because I had no appetite and found that dragging myself to the gym was one of the few tasks I could accomplish each day. As I'm getting myself back on track, he is definitely on my mind. I want to make him proud.

I'm never really sure how to honor him on his birthday -- I want to make big gestures and find just the right way to make the day special, but nothing seems quite right. Today was a lovely day, and I really just wanted him here. I finally decided to take a long walk, and I ended up in a little cul-de-sac with a spectacular view of the skyline. I listened to my sad music, I watched the sun sink into the river, and I cried behind my big black sunglasses. 

Audrey sat and waited pretty patiently, and she gave me plenty of goofy, happy faces to lighten the mood. On the way home, I picked up a cupcake. What is a birthday without a little cake?

Happy birthday, Daddy. 


  1. This was absolutely beautiful! I have no idea what it is like to lose a parent. You are stronger than you know and I think you honored your father the best way you know how. By remembering him and loving him from here.

    I am sure if you are religious, but wherever your father is I like to think that he has access to all the iPhone games he wants! :)

  2. Thanks, K :) It is never an easy day, but I always keep him in my heart and my thoughts. And on his birthday, the weather is usually beautiful and the Yankees usually win...I don't think that is a coincidence ;)

    And you're right! When he's not playing golf, I am sure he is working on getting 3 stars on Angry Birds. And doing Seinfeld impressions.

  3. Wow...not sure how I missed this post, but I'm glad I found it today. What a beautiful tribute to your dad...and even more proof of what an amazing person you are. I have no idea how I would handle losing a parent at any age...let alone at 23 and being the one who had to take charge. Thank you for sharing such a personal story of your strength and love for your dad. He sounds like a pretty amazing guy...and I'm sure he is incredibly proud. :)