Posted by: CeCe | June 16, 2013

Remembering dad

Since tomorrow is Father’s Day here in the U.S., I thought I’d write about my own dad, even though I’ve written about him before (link).  I’m sure most of you know by now that my dad died of congestive heart failure when I was ten, so my time with him was very short, and as a result, I don’t have very many memories of him.  I also had a very different father than the one with whom my siblings were raised; my dad was already dying by the time I was born, and I grew up with the threat of him having another heart attack hanging over our heads constantly.  However, I do have some wonderful memories of him that I think show who he was, so I’m going to share them.

Before I share the first memory, keep in mind that my dad was a devout Christian, to the point where he never swore.  Us kids have joked that mom and dad both would cringe if someone even said so much as “damn” or “hell”, so you can imagine how forbidden the use of the other words were.  We weren’t even allowed to say “butt”, or refer to any private parts under any circumstances.  So one day, my dad was driving me to school on his way to work.  I think at the time, I was about seven, or perhaps eight.  Suddenly, someone cut him off, and he exploded, “Son of a b****!”  I was shocked.  I had never heard dad swear before that, and I never heard him swear again.  A couple minutes later, he took the time to apologize to me.  He said, “I’m very sorry I said that, especially in front of you.  It was a terrible thing to say, and I should express my anger better than that.  Can you forgive me?”  I replied, “Of course, Dad!”  As he dropped me off, he gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek, and I went about my day as usual.  I never told anyone about that until after he had passed away, feeling that it was a moment just for us.  What I witnessed was my dad’s humanity and humility.  He made a mistake, and he owned up to it.  He always seemed larger than life, but that day, I saw that he was just as human as anyone else.  That’s not a bad thing.  It made him real and more dear to me.

The second memory comes from a summer we went to Surfside Beach in South Carolina.  This was actually a normal occasion; every summer, we’d spend a few days there at the ocean, collecting seashells, swimming in the warm and mild waves of the Atlantic, getting sunburned, and sleeping in sleeping bags filled with sand, with the smell of the ocean all around us.  I loved our time there, and some of my best memories of South Carolina were there.  Surfside Beach is just about 10 miles south of Myrtle Beach, and is slightly less crowded, or at least was when we went there.  One day, we were driving around in our golf cart (it was how to get around easily there, and they came with the place we rented), and I kept commenting on what I saw: “Look over there!  Look over there!” in my quickly developing southern accent, to which my dad responded, “It’s there, not ‘they-er”!  The funny thing is, my dad was born in Arkansas, and he and his family lived there the first few years of his life, though they moved to New Mexico and then to California by the time he was six.  Either way, he was southern, and so was his family.  Yet he refused to allow his daughter to acquire a southern accent (though I did anyway).  I think it’s because in the north, southern accents are often seen as “ignorant” rather than charming, and my dad didn’t want to be seen as ignorant, nor did he want his own children to be seen as such.  This, I believe, was a demonstration of my dad’s pride.  Given the fact that he dropped out of school after 8th grade, this memory becomes even more dear, because it helps me understand him better.

The final memory comes from just weeks before the final heart attack that caused my dad’s heart to give out entirely.  One day I was in my room playing, and suddenly I heard my dad shouting.  The thing is, although my dad had a temper, he rarely raised his voice (and when he did, we knew we were in trouble!), so this was weird.  I couldn’t hear all of what he was saying, but I was able to make out a few words, which confused me terribly.  He was saying that it wasn’t fair that he wouldn’t be able to see his children grow up.  I knew he was sick; it was impossible to grow up in our house and not know, but the idea of him dying, of not being able to see my brother graduate from high school, of not being there when my brother got his driver’s license, not being there for my 8th grade graduation or high school graduation, not being there to walk me down the aisle when I got married, I just couldn’t imagine.  This was the first and only time I ever heard my dad refer directly to his impending death, but I didn’t realize it at the time.  All I knew was that my dad was yelling, and I couldn’t understand it.  Now I realize that he was afraid… but he wasn’t afraid for himself, no.  He was afraid for us kids, and for my mom, and the fact that he was going to be leaving us terrified him.  He didn’t want to go, for our sake.  I think that this demonstrates his unselfishness; he always had more regard for his family than for himself, and this was never clearer than it was in the weeks before he died.

I have many other wonderful memories, like him singing about the old lady who swallowed a fly, singing old Johnny Cash songs, and how his cheek was often scratchy when I kissed him good night.  I remember his obsession with ducks, and how every animal we saw out the window on our many road trips was a duck, even if it was a horse or a cow.  I remember how he always smelled of Old Spice and pipe tobacco, how strong and robust he was right up until the last few weeks before he died.  I remember his pride, his laugh, and how warm his voice was when he told me how much he loved me.  He’s been gone now for almost 22 years, and yet in many ways, he’s still with me.  I wish I had had him for longer, and that he’d been there to walk me down the aisle.  And yet, I suppose I’m lucky, because I’d rather have had an amazing dad for a short time, than to have had a mediocre or horrible dad who was alive for all of my landmarks.  And he was, you know.  Amazing.  A phenomenal person, and a wonderful dad.  He had his flaws, as do we all, but he was honest about them, laying them bare for those who loved him to see.  To me, his flaws made him even more perfect.

Happy Father’s Day, dad.  I miss you so.

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Responses

  1. Cece, That’s a well written illustration of your dad’s wonderful qualities. I think in terms of geneology. How often do we know the dates of their birth, marriage, and death, but know very little about what happened during the “dash” listed on the tombstone? Your story will be a great illustration for your family’s future generations. And, when you see him someday, you can share how he will be remembered.

    • Joye, that is so true. Sometimes I wonder why there aren’t more stories of my ancestors passed down. Like why do I know almost nothing about my great-grandparents and dad’s parents other than their dates of birth and death? I hope that I’m able to preserve who my dad was so that if I ever have kids, they’ll know what he was like. My mom too.

      Thanks as always for commenting, Joye! ❤


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