I’m not a huge fan of wearing my heart on my sleeve, but it’s been a few weeks since my last post and I feel like falling off the face of the earth requires just a little explanation. A lot has happened that caused this temporary leave and it just doesn’t feel right to start posting about smoothies and homeschool projects without at least mentioning it.
As I announced, I am pregnant with Rinnagade #4 and it has been much more exhausting than anticipated. The worst has been some morning sickness that I seem to be getting past now…thank you, God.
The bigger reason for my recent absence is that something very sad has happened to our family.
My dad passed away suddenly. He went to bed at 9:30 on a Thursday night without a single complaint and slipped out of our lives a few hours later, due to heart failure.
So after a 3 a.m. phone call that no one wants to get, we hightailed it to Michigan for 10 days. We got in late last night and the fridge is empty, our luggage is vomited all over the house, library books are due, and the laundry is three feet deep. I feel part numb and the rest of me scatter brained and I keep wondering why Starbucks doesn’t deliver. Needless to say the only writing I’ve been doing has been a eulogy. So I figured, in his honor, I would post it.
This was my father…in a most succinct form.
Thank you everyone for coming; one thing my dad particularly loved was having a full house.
Today I will attempt to paint you a picture of my dad as clearly as I can in these few moments.
If you’re here today and you really knew my father, you know he wasn’t perfect.
He liked his TV too loud, his beer too much and his cigarettes for too long. He didn’t always know how to relate to his family. He had a temper, an overwhelming desire to win an argument, and gave a good guilt trip. It made him a nervous wreck to have someone in his kitchen while he was cooking and he hovered over you while you ate. He’d ask every few seconds, “so what do ya think?” and then inconspicuously switch up his question to something like “so, you like it, right? Good.” He was convinced there was a conspiracy involved any time he couldn’t find food he was looking for and he accused everyone of illegally downloading music any time something went wrong on the computer. He was stubborn, over reactive, and a little less than humble.
But the last time I checked, “perfect” isn’t one of the qualities that any of us can add to our resume.
I tell you these flaws of my father not to be offensive, but to avoid romanticizing who he was. In our efforts to remember the good times, we sometimes forget the whole person. And in doing that, especially with my dad, we would miss the opportunity to see his efforts to do better and the ways he improved over the years.
My dad was much more than that though.
If you knew my dad for more than 20 seconds, you knew he was a Lion’s fan. He loved any Detroit team, for that matter.
He loved Food channel, Motown music played at maximum volume (especially the Temptations), BBQ joints, babies, dogs, farm markets, cookouts, pool parties, and Bath & Body Works Moisturized hand soap. He could tell a great story and he loved a good practical joke. He watched the weather channel religiously and loved the thrill of a good storm. He loved his flannels, pjs, hats, and slippers. More recently, he had one other outfit and that was his work uniform. In his younger years, his other outfit was the cutoff jean shorts you see him sporting in half the pictures on the photo boards. He had an impeccable work ethic and he taught us that you were sick on your days off. He was an extreme couponer and a candidate for the show Hoarders because he just could not turn down a good food sale. This habit made it possible for him to partially cater his own funeral, which he would’ve gotten a kick out of.
He loved his family and provided for us tirelessly. He might not have always had the right words to say, but he had his own ways of showing love and we knew them. His favorite love language was in giving gifts. And he gave great gifts. In my lifetime, can personally account for a keyboard – for me as a child and this last Christmas for my children, a telescope, a TV, a harmonica, a yodeling CD, a BOSE radio, a special ordered tin of popcorn, an inscribed art case, a calligraphy set and a much needed 10-foot ladder, to name a few of my favorites. He was also known for picking up the bill at a restaurant, paying a car payment or insurance as a surprise and even as an adult, he would slide some of my food into his pile at the grocery store.
Some of my favorite memories growing up were our parties and vacations. He loved a party. Adult, kid, both, didn’t matter. All the screaming little girls and the New Kids on the Block music and the 15 sleeping bags in the family room, all the pizza and hot dogs and hamburgers and cakes and chips and pop he paid for, and I never heard one complaint. He loved my friends and loved that I have such great friends. At family parties you could count on my dad grabbing you up for a dance in the family room and singing every word to you.
He loved taking trips. My best memories with my dad involved a tiny one room beach house in Mackinac, a ferry ride and seeing the “Grand Hotel” from his and my mom’s favorite movie Somewhere in Time. There’s a fond memory of mine where he made me run down a grassy knoll screaming, “Richard!” If you’ve seen the movie, you understand. There was Virginia Beach, Washington, and many more, but above all my Uncle Charlie’s where he swore time didn’t exist.
What I can say about my dad on a more personal note is that he loved my husband and kids… and especially my dogs. He instilled in me a love for cooking and “food things” and kitchen gadgets and we enjoyed swapping recipes. Because I have Celiac Disease and cannot eat gluten, he found it a great challenge and adventure to find a tasty recipe to share with me or a new food product at Meijer. He would forward me emails with gluten-free recipes and information on autism which showed me he cared about my life. He often spoke to me through emails and newspaper articles. He sent me movie tickets for my birthday to see “March of the Penguins” when it came out because he remembered it was my favorite animal to see at the zoo growing up.
We got each other’s jokes and we were both “breakfast” people. He took me to see “My Girl” and “Robin Hood” and to daddy daughter dances when I was in Brownies. He bought me my first real perfume, “Sunflowers.” When I was ten, he bought me real flowers after hurting my feelings. He drove me to softball and soccer games and tennis matches and stopped at the donut place before my tennis matches so I could get a donut and chocolate milk. He believed in an exceptional education, which I benefited from first hand. He never limited his expectations of what I, as a girl, could do academically. He supported me in my writing and my degree and was always asking when that first book was going to be finished. He only paid for half of my first vehicle which I am grateful for. It was a great lesson I plan to repeat. In my tumultuous teen years, I learned the art of debate. I think my husband resents this particular life lesson, but it has made me a “thinker” nonetheless.
At the end of the day, our lives will not be the same without him. He was a memorable man who didn’t leave this earth without leaving his mark.
A funeral is really a testimony to a man’s life. In the movie “Waking Ned Devine,” the following is said in regard to a man’s passing: “The words that are spoken at a funeral are spoken too late for the man who is dead. What a wonderful thing it would be to visit your own funeral.”
Time is fleeting and merciless and we do not know how much of it we have. I leave here with no regrets today, but I ask you to live in the moment and be sure the ones you love know how they are loved. Any amount of days back with my dad would not be enough but I am glad for the memories I have that will live on forever.