It has been ten years since I’ve celebrated Father’s Day along side my dear old dad. For me, it will always be a special day of remembering him. If I close my eyes and reflect, I can hear his voice as clear as if he were right there in that moment, calling me on the phone: “Hi Mar Mar. How’s everyone?” His heart was kind, his smile warmed any room and his unconditional love was everlasting. His never ending stories made me snicker and giggle and sometimes cry. I often think the reason they were such remarkable stories is because they never ended. He’d just pick up where he left off each time he sat down to tell another. In my mind, this not only made him the best dad but also the BEST storyteller ever. If you are familiar with the movie, ‘Big Fish‘, then let me just say he was THAT kind of storyteller. If you’re not, just go to the Big Fish link at the end of this post and you’ll get the idea.
My dad’s sense of humor made everyone laugh until their bellies hurt, mostly because he was laughing at his own one liners, which no one really ‘got’. Somehow I think he knew that, which only made him laugh harder and us, uncontrollably. He wrote poems about his grandsons playing sports, the pride of being their grandfather and his view of all mankind. From my earliest recollections he loved to hunt and fish, he was an expert when it came to hockey, on and off the ice, and he was proud of his contribution of 32 years with Prudential. Most important to him though was his love for my mother, whom he adored.
My father’s final weeks will always be most precious to me as I came to realize he was slipping away a little more each day. I’d arrive every morning at breakfast. He had a particular order in which he liked to eat and he especially enjoyed leading me through it as I assisted him. It was his favorite meal of the day. I couldn’t help but smile thinking of all the years I recalled him dunking his toast in his coffee. Now, he was very specific. First juice, then bran cereal but only after it had soaked up all the milk so that it wasn’t too crunchy. Then fruit, followed by a hard boiled egg. Finally, one piece of toast with marmalade and the second ready to dunk in his coffee, which by now was the perfect drinking temperature. Taking about two hours, there was no need for lunch and dinner was negotiable.
As the days and nights flowed from one to the next he ate less and less each time. He would rest for short periods throughout the day and when he awoke, would ask me to make a list of his wishes, even though I already knew what was in his heart.
Each evening it became more and more difficult to leave him as I fought back the thought that I might not see him or hear his voice again. In an effort to comfort both him and myself, when I reached the door to his room to wave goodnight, I would turn and blow him a kiss. He’d reach out and catch it, mid air, squeezing his fist tightly. I told him I hoped that it would bring him some comfort in knowing how much he was loved. The next morning when I arrived, he’d hold up his hand, fist still clenched and tell me he still had his comfort kiss.
During the last few days of his precious life my father and I enjoyed sharing many of our family memories. We cried with laughter recalling the time he earnestly attempted to teach me how to fish while I came close to landing us, hook, line and sinker, in the lake. I was sitting sideways in the boat, bare feet skimming along the surface of the water, singing at the top of my lungs to the sky, to the fish and to my dad, when suddenly my line started to wiggle. Not having anticipated actually having to catch a fish, I scrambled to my feet and attempted to run to the end of the very tiny boat to the safety of my dad. This was an impossible maneuver to say the least and I was completely unaware that the boat was rocking wildly and letting in water. Miraculously, my dad calmly sat me down, chuckling and grinning from ear to ear, he reached over, grabbed my line and assisted me while I caught my very first fish. He did so making me believe I had done it all on my own. I was in my element and now I know, so was he.
As I sat there on the edge of his bed reflecting on this special memory I found myself smiling and quietly singing that same song and then noticed that I’d made him smile too. I thought he was sleeping……hmm
I’d watch while he slept and think how lucky I have been to have had such an incredible dad. He never raised his voice or his hand to me. In fact I have no memory of ever seeing him angry.
One evening as I was leaving, I blew him a kiss. He quickly grasped the air with his hand and clenched his fist as usual. Then he said: “Before you go there is something I’d like to give you.” I walked over to the side of his bed. He took both my hands, looked deeply into my eyes and said: “I’ll never forget these days with you. Thank you dear.” Then he very softly planted a kiss in the palm of my hand and gently pressed my fingers around it.
He didn’t need to tell me to use it wisely, or to use it when I needed it most. He didn’t need to tell me it would stay with me forever, as long as I live. He didn’t need to tell me it was my comfort kiss. The magic of his dancing, green eyes said it all.
My father passed away the following evening. He’d eaten a little of his breakfast. Mostly just some toast dunked in his coffee. Just before he took his last breath I opened the palm of his hand and gave him two kisses. I told him to be sure to give one to mom when he saw her again. His passing was like a soft sigh from a moment where time stood still.
I remember him today with gratitude, honor, pride, and love. I will never forget those final weeks, hours and days with him. As long as I live I will know that I carry my comfort kiss in the palm of my hand to use when I need to,
and I do need to,
every Father’s Day.
Love you always and forever Dad.
Big Fish as promised: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-d-kjzBmz6I
For your listening pleasure: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilhe97g0mdU