Tuesday

10 August 2010

It's August 10th, 2010.

In 16 days I turn 49 years old.

My father died this morning.

It was not unexpected, but that doesn't lessen the sting any. His health had been on the decline and he'd gone from being this stoic, strong man to being frail and needing help for just about everything. He had Parkinson's Disease, had survived kidney cancer, and had lost most of his hearing, and I'm sure he hated all of that.

But, he died at home, which is where he wanted to be. And it's where he could be because my sister Dorothy quit her job a couple of years ago and dedicated herself to caring for our parents. She gave up having any real life for herself, and has done the full time job of at least four people, providing them with hands-on dedicated care, doing it all.

Yeah, we owe her. We owe he a lot.

But, my dad. I wrote this on his 81st birthday, and it seems fitting to run again:

When I was a little kid, mid-to-late 60's - early 70's, women were burning their bras and fighting for equality, while little girls were banned from things like Little League baseball and auto shop. Girls were discouraged from developing friendships with those dirty, dirty boy because ONE DAY those dirty, dirty boys would harbor dirty, dirty thoughts about them. While the boys played rough games of Kick Me Off The Monkey Bars during recess, the girls were expected to swing (with their legs crossed if they were in a dress, of course) or play hop scotch.

Girls had Girl Things to do, and boys had Boy Things. One certainly did not teach his young daughter to hook a worm and cast a fishing pole, and one certainly did not spend fatherly one-on-one time at the side of a small lake teaching her the difference between trout and crappie.

Except for my dad.

Whether it was a conscious effort on his part to blur the gender lines or if he just wanted to teach one of his kids to fish, my father ruined many of his own fishing trips by taking me along. He taught me how to get the worm on the hook in a way it wouldn't wash off, he taught me how to cast my own rod and what it felt like when I had a bite. He made me hold my catch myself, all slimy and gross, and get the hook out.

When we were in Germany, I spent more mornings with him out by the water than I can readily count. It couldn't have been much fun for him, sitting there with an overly talkative and whiny little girl, but he did it. He allowed me to step over those gender lines as if it was a matter of course.

There were no arguments about his little girl playing baseball in the giant community backyard with the boys. He even bought me a baseball glove.

He once bought me a guitar while he was on TDY and held it on his lap on the plane ride home; while other little girls were learning feminine woodwinds, I learned to rock out.

I played on the junior high school basketball team, and never once heard "girls don't do that."

I mowed the lawn; one summer he hired the son of a family friend to cut the grass, but when I wanted to save money to buy a 10 speed bike, the job was mine. I never heard "that's not girl's work," though many of my friends heard it from their fathers. Mine handed over the lawn mower to his 12 year old daughter, paid her $4 a week, and when I had almost enough money, he drove me to pick out my bike and he covered my monetary shortfall.

About a mile from home he pulled the station wagon over, and told me to ride it the rest of the way home. I hadn't asked, but he knew how badly I wanted to ride my new toy. He pulled the bike out of the car and let me go.

My dad, whether he intended to or not, whether he was comfortable with it nor not, stepped a little bit ahead of the times and let his daughter soar. I don't know if he went with the changing times or if he saw that no matter what, his youngest daughter was never going to be a girly-girl and accepted it for what it was, but he allowed me to be me before the climate of the times would.

Whatever his reasons, what he gave me was the gift of being comfortable with myself. My parents are amazing people, but it really sticks with me that my father was a little progressive when my friends' fathers were not, and could not, be. Very quietly, he gave me that sense of comfort, he showed me strength, he showed me what real men are made of.

Today my dad is 81.

You may thank him for the gift of me. I am that special ;) Oh, and wish him a Happy Birthday, too. He deserves all the good wishes the world can muster.

The world is just a bit dimmer today without him. While he's in a better place—and I do believe that—it sucks for the rest of us.

Truly sucks.

30 comments:

Alby said...

I’m sorry, honey.

MeezerMom said...

I am so very sorry for you r loss. Your father sounds like a truly wonderful person. {{HUGS}} - Mary

divakitty said...

Hugs from all of us

Cheysuli and gemini said...

We are so sorry for your loss. It might not have been unexpected, but it doesn't make it any easier really.

Angus Mhor said...

Angus' mom says: Karen, I'm sorry for your heart. It's been four years since I lost my dad and I can say many of the same things about him you've said about yours. I'm so thankful for his love. I know you are, too. And many blessings upon your sister's head.

andrea said...

Karen, I am so sorry to hear this loss. He sounds like a very special man. love, Andrea

Camie's Kitties said...

I am so sorry to hear of your loss. He does sound like a wonderful man, and I know you are going to miss him profoundly. You will be in my thoughts.

Tara

Parker said...

What a great Dad - you were blessed. We are so very sorry for your loss.
(((hugs)))
Parker, Puff, Powder, Rudy, Diamond Doggie and the 'rents,
Helen and Scott

Carmi said...

I'm sorry I never met him, because he sounds like the kind of dad we would have all been blessed to have. I'm comforted by your words, Karen, because it's clear you understood, from a very early age, just how unique he was.

May his spirit long live in you and your entire family. May his memory always be a blessing to us all.

Angel and Kirby said...

Loosing your Dad is the worse feeling a little girl can have. My Dad was like yours. He taught us to fish, use a gun, plow, farm and work the cattle. I still miss him after 10 years. And cried when we went to Prom all dressed up!

We know there are not enough words to comfort you at this time. He was a wonderful Dad and you have many memories to cherish!

Shaggy, Scooby and Scout said...

What a wonderful, beautiful man he was. We send you our deepest sympathy and tightest hugs today.
We grew up at the same time. On the edge of the changes that were to come. I turned 50 in February, but I was born late in life to my parents and my dad has been gone 15 years now.
(((hugs)))

Geekwif said...

I'm so sorry. He sounds like an awesome guy. I'm glad you had the opportunity to have such a great dad.

jenianddean said...

Yes, truly sucks. But bless him for the patience of taking you on those fishing trips and being progressive in raising his daughter. Those moments are invaluable.
--Dean

Roberta said...

Oh Karen,
I'm so very, very sorry. I truly feel your loss.
My love and prayers are with you and your wonderful family.
Always--R

Roses said...

Oh, Thumper...

Lone Star Purrs said...

Thumper,
We are so sorry for your loss. You,and your family, will be in our thoughts and prayers. What a wonderful letter...I was practically bawling by the end.
{{{hugs}}}
~Meeko, Kiara, and Family

Angela said...

So sorry to hear this :( You're in my thoughts...

kenju said...

I'm so sorry. I know that your good memories will sustain you in the weeks to come.



I loved reading your birthday tribute to him. How old was he now?

hairball manager said...

You are truly blessed. To see that you needed to be free and to let you be free is an amazing gift. He will be with you always.
Our hearts are with you today and always.
Gael, Melvin, Putter and Diamond

Derby, Ducky said...

Reading about you and your Dad makes me think about me and my Dad. A blessing that they made us independent women. My sympathy to you and your family on your loss.

kmilyun said...

Sorry sounds so empty but I truly am :( and yeah it sucks. Hang in there and remember he lives always in your heart.

Karen Nichols said...

What a beautiful post. My aunt gave up a year of her life to care for her brother who was dying of emphysema. She moved him into home and gave him round-the-clock care. She'd been a nurse, but still it was brutally difficult work. My mother, another aunt and I occasionally would give her a weekend off and take over her duties, yet the three of us could barely manage, it was so hard. So whenever I hear of someone taking over caregiving duties, I really give them lots of bonus points.

Sounds like you had a great dad, and great memories. (I didn't, on either count.) I'll be thinking of you and praying for you and your family during the days ahead.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I was really close to my dad too. He's been gone since 2001 and I miss him each and every day. The pain will always be there but it does get easier over time. Take care.

Pam

caircair said...

My sincerest condolences. Sometimes the words "I am so sorry" don't say nearly as much as we might wish.

Mila said...

*hugs*

dustyninjacat said...

My deepest condolences to you and your family. What a wonderful and beautiful letter you wrote. Your dad sounded like he was a great man.

Anonymous said...

So, so sorry for your loss. Expected or not, it still hurts like hell when it happens. Even 37 years after losing my dad, I still get a tear or two coming when I think of him; especially when someone loses theirs. Take care and bless you and your family.

Barbara

Christie Critters said...

So sorry about the loss of your Dad. He sounds like a very, very special guy.

Jo said...

((((((Thumper)))))),

Your blog - lovely tribute to your father - and sister). I know that dimness all too well.

Safe travels. Grieve well.

All good thoughts for those left behind.

Gentle hugs, Jo (Archer)

michelle said...

I am sorry for your loss. I have been a "lurker" on your blog for a few years now and I have to admit I was in tears by the end of this post. You have a great way with words and this was a nice goodbye.