What do you write when your Dad dies? Typing out words can never do justice to a life well lived. When you are in the moment of death you cannot see clearly enough to distill a person down to his essence, and even if you try, a person is only your perception of him. We all came into our Dad’s life at different times and in different capacities and therefore, he is a different man to each and every person he came into contact with.
My Dad died at age 94 and I knew him for 54 years. In the early years I mostly remember him at 4:30PM daily. That was the time he came home from working a 10+ hour day at his auto repair shop in San Francisco and the time that dinner was always on the table. Then he’d retire to his bedroom and I’d see him again the next night at 4:30. So dinner time was a big time for me to bond with my Dad. He hated vegetables and I did too so I never had to eat them when he was around. He loved pasta and we all loved pasta–even though he used to make funny jokes of my Italian mother (mostly they had to do with crappy FIAT “Fix It Again Tony” cars). At the end of dinner he’d have vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, or for a real treat, spumoni ice cream. He’d go to his room, watch TV and often he’d watch something funny–and his loud giggle was infectious. Often he’d laugh so hard he’d start coughing and I thought we’d have to pick him up off the floor–like when he would watch It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Every time we would eat out at a diner or restaurant he would pretend that he had forgotten his wallet at the end of the meal and would tell me to start getting ready to go into the back to wash dishes for my meal. It took me only about 50 times to figure out he was kidding.
He was a mechanic so he could fix anything. I never once saw a tradesperson at our house–didn’t even know they existed. I thought everyone’s Dad fixed plumbing, electrical, poured concrete, fixed dishwashers etc. He designed the home I grew up in in Marin County and then eventually the home he lived in for over 30 years in Santa Rosa. This would be the same home he died in today, with my mother at his side. The same home my husband and I were married in. I told him in my last visit to him how proud he must be of this house he had built–what a beautiful job he had done on it and it must be so wonderful to be surrounded by something he put so much into building,
I have great memories of spending so much time with him at our mobile home in Clear Lake. I was too young to believe it was a lousy place my parents were dragging me to–my older sisters were always groaning when they were forced to go to The Lake when they really wanted to hang out in the neighborhood with their friends. I loved it up there and a few times I went up just with my Dad. There was the time he was supposed to take me in his Mach 1 but at the last minute my Mom said I shouldn’t go and he ended up wrapping that car around a pole on an icy road–I always looked at the smashed photo of that car thinking how that huge dent was my near death experience. At Clear Lake my Dad taught me to fish for crappie, how to scale them once caught, how to water ski (double and slalom) and how to stay very quiet when the nests of ducklings were all hatching in the bushes around our patio and then how to guide them down to The Lake. He was meticulous with keeping the boat clean and taught me how to steer it–even some days when The Lake was choppy and Mom didn’t think I should take the wheel. He’d have his 8 track tapes blaring on the boat when I skied–and I swear if I close my eyes I can hear Neil Diamond’s Cracklin’ Rosie or Sweet Caroline playing while I waited to give him the thumbs up “GO” sign to pull me out of the water. Once he put me on the back of his little Honda motorcycle and we went to church at Cobb Mountain. My Mom was not so happy when she found out he had done that. He also took me and my sister Terri to the hardware store in Kelseyville and I fell while screwing around and blood poured from my temple–my Dad took me back to the mobile and of course my Mom was furious he hadn’t taken me to the hospital. I’m so glad you didn’t take me to the hospital, Dad. Now I have this awesome scar that will remind me of you every time I look in the mirror!
As I got older he came to all of my graduations–High School, Community College, Sacramento State and UC Davis. It was always so blasted hot and I always seemed to choose some of the hottest places to go to university so he could not have been happy to have been dragged to all those boring ceremonies. Every single one of them I remember him saying he was proud of me and giving me a wink. I haven’t mentioned but he had blue blue eyes and so do I. That always made me feel like I was special because I had my Dad’s blue eyes. When I’d come home from college he’d always press a one hundred dollar bill in my hand as I would be getting ready to leave saying “Don’t tell your mother I gave you this” although I believe my mother always knew he was doing it. He’d give me that sideways glance and another wink.
One of the greatest times of my life was when my family came up to Tinhorn Creek to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary. I was so honoured they would come all this way to celebrate such an occasion. I still remember telling the crowd of concert goers that it was their 50th anniversary and then watching my Dad and Mom take to the grass for a dance. So proud of the place I helped build was where they chose to spend their anniversary. My parents celebrated their 67th anniversary this past July.
On January 2, 2005 my parents surprised me and my husband by flying to Salt Lake City just one day after we had adopted our daughter Melody. She was just 3 days old. They spent the next few days in a hotel with us until we got her passport and were able to take her back to Canada. My Dad hated snow and the cold and that is about the only thing that could get him to spend time in Utah in the winter–not my new daughter but my Mother asking him to go–he would do anything for my mother if it was important to her. He did anything for his grandkids. They would sit in my parents’ kitchen and listen to stories the way I used to listen to stories from my grandfather. My nieces and nephews are all so blessed to have been surrounded by his love, and my mother’s love and to see their love for each other.
In 2009 when he knew we has starting to lose his memory he gave me his 1957 DeSoto which I still own and the picture is still the avatar I use on my social media accounts. People say I should have a photo of my face but I always send them my blog post on what that car meant to my Dad and what it means to me when they suggest that.
It just so happened that my Dad had Alzheimer’s for the last 11 years of his life and my mother never left his side in all those years. She always said that he had taken care of her and now was her turn to do the same for him. But we all know that if it was the other way around, if my mother had been ill my father would have been by her side continually until she passed. This is the tribute to their love for each other. As for me, I knew when he was diagnosed that it was going to be an opportunity for me to get to know my father in a different way than had he lived without the disease. The very best thing about his illness was that when I would travel down to California to visit, and I was leaving, he no longer would press money into my hand but would say to me “I love you” and get teary eyed. This was not something I heard often from him, but Alzheimer’s brought this vocal sensitivity gene out in him. I’d then put the last stuff in my car and again he would say “I love you” because he had forgotten he had already said it. Once I got 4 “I love you’s” before I drove away and I thought to myself–what a privilege to be able to experience that. I wouldn’t trade that day for the world now.
So Dad, on the first night of my life without you alive, I can report to you that your “girlfriend” Melody is doing just fine. I still live in Canada with Kenn and love it. It snowed today, how is the weather where you are? No, I no longer own the winery but you would still be so proud of me. I took the DeSoto for a drive this summer. Last week I asked Mom if I could have your shade hat–I hope that is OK–it makes me feel like you’re with me. I love you, Dad. But mostly, thank you. An exhaustive thank you for all you were for me. For all you did for me. For all you lifted me. For your winks, your laughs and your advice. Thank you for showing me a life well lived. We’ll watch over Mom for you, don’t worry.
What a beautiful tribute to your dad, Sandra. These marker points in life are so exquisitely poignant. The colour you bring to your relationship with your dad is such a gift. Of course, it made me think of my own dad and our relationship, our conversations, time we spent together, and ultimately, his death. I think of him every day. I have his fedora, and his marble collection, along with his toys from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. I keep them all around me. Your dad will forever be around you and his presence will engulf you at the most unexpected times. May his memory be a blessing…
Pam that’s so sweet. I love that you have his marble collection.
So sad to hear of your Dad’s passing. He was a great man. Your “Oldfield’s Wanderings” eulogy was both perfect and touching….well done.
Aw so sorry Sandy. There are no words that feel enough. Sending you lots of love
Thank you Korol. I’ll always be grateful for Joe going down to bring back that car.
Beautiful tribute Sandra!
Sandra – this is so beautiful! With tears in my eyes I think of my dear dad (who I lost 6 years ago this May). You capture the essence of a beautiful relationship perfectly. He will live on in your fond memories forever ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Sandra, what a lovely tribute. Of course I never met him, but learned enough from your beautiful words. I cry easily, and your beautiful words brought me to tears for your memories.
Aww, thank you
Wow…what a great tribute to a man who lived and loved so deeply. You have some great memories Sandra.
A huge thank you for letting us all into a small but meaningful portion of your life.
May your Father RIP.
Thank you so much Brek.
Beautiful tribute Sandra. Sorry for your loss… hugs!
Thank you Sandra for letting us be part of your first day without your Dad. That is such a tough day. I had to keep wiping my eyes to keep reading your powerful tribute that brought to life a “loss of innocence”, your rich relationship and allowing us to get to know an honorable good man. “To the Man.” Your Good ol Dad!
Here’s to good Dads!
I am so very sorry for the loss of your father.
My thoughts are with you and your mum.
Thank you for sharing this with us, your followers.
It is so beautifully written.
With my deepest condolences,
Thank you, Sandra, for sharing these stories of your father, they are so moving and evocative. May he rest in peace, and much love to you, Kenn, Melody and your family.
Thank you Andra
Sandra I was so sorry to hear about your loss. This was a beautiful tribute to ‘your amazing dad’. I know I think of mine every day even though he’s been gone for over 30 years. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Kenn and Melody and also your mom and extended family at this time. Hugs to all of you.
It’s great when they leave such an impression you think of them for the rest of your life. Thank you Deb
What a wonderful tribute to your Dad. You write beautifully, so many memories in your words and in the pictures you so selflessly share. Thank you for opening this part of your world to me. I will be forever grateful. Keeping you and your family close in thought & prayer.
Thank you for taking the time to write such kind words.
A touching eulogy!
Sent from my iPad
What a beautiful memoir Sandra! So sorry for your loss! May his memory always be for a blessing!
Beautiful memories Sandra. So very difficult to lose your dad. Daughters and dads have a special relationship for sure.
What a beautiful tribute to a lovely life. Thank you for sharing those memories and insights on your relationships. Wishing you to take good care of yourself as you navigate this next phase in remembering him.
A life well lived and a man well loved. As always, your heart tells a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. xo
You know how I hate writing
What a beautiful tribute.. I am sorry for your loss – when you look at a life well lived and well loved – and reflect on all the gifts your father bestowed on you through his actions, his love and his life -what comfort you find in that treasure!
Thank you so much for sharing your life, and experience…. xo
Thanks Beth and great to “see” you again!
What a heartfelt tribute to your loving Dad…..thank you for sharing your beautiful memories of his well lived life, and the beautiful love you had for one another. I shed tears for my own Dad whom I lost when I was 13 and he 41. Our thoughts and prayers are with you Sandra, may your Dad RIP. Dee & Peter
Thank you so much Dee and Peter
You need a warning at the beginning of this post – do not read without a box of tissues nearby. What a heartwarming wonderful tribute to your dad. It is indeed, all the little everyday things that truly matter and you have captured them so well. You have painted him very much as a ‘real’ man. Thanks for sharing.
Awww, I’m sorry I made you cry. Good to “see” you Sam
I’m sorry about your loss but so happy he led such an interesting life that he got to share with you.
We recently lost a great-uncle who was married 75 years like your dad’s 67. For my wife and I, that commitment, dedication and willingness to work together is an inspiration. I’ve been thinking about that a lot.
Thank you for sharing.
That is really something to have been married that long. I think my Mom can adapt to losing him but it will take a long while I imagine
Beautiful tribute Sandra! I am so sorry for your loss. It is a wonderful thing to have a caring and loving man for a father.