This was originally posted on a Caring Bridge page for dad, while he was sick and after his death. I haven’t edited/changed it since then.
I got the call four weeks ago this morning at 5:20 a.m. SO much has happened since then, and I’m trying to remember more of the good stuff with dad. It was so good to get to know him as an adult, and not just ‘the principal’s kid’ or being a kid in general. I learned how long he’d been my greatest ‘cheerleader’ and how much he’d always had my back. He didn’t always get mushy, but his love for me was deep and forever. We never ended a phone call without saying “I love you.” to each other.
Some of the things that stand out are with the times I travelled with mom and dad. The summer trip to Europe in 1977 was one that stands out in particular for how dad included my interests in a crazy month that covered 6000 miles. He knew of my love of figure skating, and the ’76 Olympics were when Dorothy Hamill won the gold medal. That was a big deal in my 13 year old world, and he went out of his way to take me to Innsbruck, Austria so I could skate at the same rink where the Olympic skating events happened. It turned out that there were no public sessions that day, but I got to see the rink and take some photos there- and he did everything he could to do something just for me, outside of the usual tourist stuff. Dad was also THE best currency exchange rate on the continent… I’d saved babysitting money for that trip, and he always gave me extra money for each country when I gave him my dollars.
Dad was very patient with me. If he got upset, he said what he wanted to say, and it was done. There wasn’t any lingering anger or disappointment. I’d be corrected, and then we moved on. I was raised in the day when spanking was fairly normal (and nobody called Protective Services). I didn’t get spanked much at all. Maybe 4-5 times in my life. I knew I’d messed up, and was usually crying before he ever got near me. It was a swat or two over a clothed butt with an open hand. Then it was done. He didn’t hold onto resentments. Most of the time, he’d forget what he was mad about after he ‘blew’.
There were a lot of conventions during the time when dad was with the school system. One was scheduled to happen in Anaheim, CA. There is only one reason to go to Anaheim, CA, and it involves large mice. He never wanted me to be pulled out of school, but that year, I got to miss one week of fifth grade to spend time at Disneyland, Universal Studios, the Queen Mary, etc. It was a lot of fun. He didn’t have to take mom and me, but he did.
Sometimes people didn’t really like that mom and dad left me for the times when they travelled, but not everybody knows that when I stayed with my dad’s parents, I was treated like a queen ! I had the run of the place, and no matter what was going on (grandpa’s gardening or grandma’s baking), I was included like a full partner in the project, even if I could barely see over the table, or could hardly lift more than a few weeds. The only time grandma said no to me was the weird time I came in to wash my hands, and did so over a bowl of thawing cocktail shrimp…. the shrimp were also for me, back during a time when shrimp in the Midwest weren’t seen much. I took some of the dried brown beans used to make the baked beans for Christmas, and planted them in grandpa’s geranium patch. He let them grow. I got to see them actually grow pods of beans. Grandpa was a very meticulous gardener, but he let those stupid beans just be there. I wasn’t missing out from a kid’s perspective, and I’m so glad that mom and dad had the chance to travel back when mom was OK, and dad had to opportunities to go on those trips. As long as they brought back the hotel soap and stationary, I was happy. They’d bring other stuff, but those were my requests !
Dad could be silly. A lot of people only saw his public/work ‘face’, but at home, it wasn’t unusual for mom and me to come home from one of our epic (not in a good way) clothes shopping trips to find dad with the stereo blaring, dancing with Greta (goofy schnauzer of my childhood). He’d hold her like a toddler, with one paw in his, actually in a dance pose. Greta never looked all that amused, but she was a very goodnatured dog, and put up with just about anything. It makes much more sense why she made a break for it any time the door was open. Sometimes when I was out mowing the lawn in the summer, dad would sometimes follow me and then put an ice cube down my shirt. I never heard him coming!
Going back to the shopping trips with mom…. Oy. Mom always wanted me to look like something from a catalog ad. I wanted something I could climb trees in. Even going for something as simple as ‘regulation’ gym shorts, we got into battles. It must have been for my freshman year at Guilford that I had to have red gym shorts (with the late 70s white stripe along the rounded legs and sides). Mom and I had gone everywhere in town it seemed, to the teen or junior sections looking for those stupid shorts. We were gone for hours. By the time we got home, we were pretty much not speaking, and it was the scary ‘two door slam’ from the garage that dad learned to duck and run from (one slam = one of us mad; two slams = nobody is speaking). And no shorts. Mom explained the situation to dad, who didn’t understand why getting gym shorts was such a problem. Mom looked at him as if he’d lost his mind and said “Well then YOU take her!”. So, dad and I went over to Wiese’s to the MEN’s department, picked up two pair of red gym shorts, and he sent me in to try one pair on (in the men’s dressing room- he waited by the door). They fit, he bought both pair, and we were home inside of 45 minutes. Mom was actually more ticked off that it had been so easy for dad to find the shorts !
Dad talked about my adoption, and initially when he talked to me about it, I wondered why he was telling me that he didn’t really have much of a desire to go the adoption route. It wasn’t because of not having a biological child, but because of the trauma of losing the two babies just a few years before. But he said once he saw me and held me, he thought it was the best thing ever to have a kid (and actually wanted more kids via adoption; mom was the one who had the struggles with being terrified that something would happen to me, too, so didn’t want to deal with the stress of the process- or worrying that she’d mess something up and I’d be taken back). He talked about how he had a lot of fun with me, balancing me on one hand (mom didn’t like that, but he had fun, and I obviously survived), taking me to the Jewish Community Center where he lifeguarded in the summers, and tossing me from his chair down to mom who was waiting to catch me in the pool. (I don’t think it was one of the tall lifeguard chairs, or mom would have been taken away by men in white coats if she saw him tossing me from nearly one story up). He used to send me “anniversary cards” for the day when they got me, 10 days after I was born. It never mattered that I wasn’t biologically related to him (nobody in the family seemed to have been bothered by that). I was his.
Since moving back from Texas, we both wanted to spend more time together, but my physical situation was a problem. Getting the cooling vest from my birth mom and half brother changed a lot, so it was possible to go out for brief periods of time (or longer if pre-planned and I knew to take more cooling vest inserts). There was a standing offer of going anywhere I wanted to go for lunch; he’d drive, pay, and deliver me back home at any time if I started to feel weird. One of the highlights every year was going to Edward’s Apple Orchard. I’d plan it with my disability checks so I could get some goodies in the shopping area, but he always paid for that as well. I told him that I didn’t expect him to pay for my goodies, but he said he’d just take it out of my inheritance. He’d wander around with me as long as I wanted to be out there (usually ending up in the barn with the calf). I wanted SO much to spend more time with him, but I also wanted him to have as much of a ‘retirement’ as he could, with his friends. He worked so hard taking care of mom- and he said he’d do it again if he knew it was going to happen. But I wanted him to have fun as much as he could. His time with Marilyn and his good friends Frank and Don were times he looked forward to so much. He had some other really good friends as well that he might not have seen as often, but still looked forward to any time he could spend with people he cared about.
For my 50th birthday, dad wanted to make it a big deal. I’m not much of a celebrator, but could tell he wanted to make a week of it. I don’t generally like restaurants in the evening since more people are around, and more people = more body heat = harder to keep cool enough to enjoy being there. So dad said we should do lunch every day that week instead of a big dinner. He also wanted to get me a new mattress and box spring set. I’d had one that I brought up from Texas, and it was fine, but he was unusually insistent. We were eating at Stockholm Inn that first day of celebrating, and he finally said why he was so concerned about the bed. He thought that I’d gotten it out of a dumpster in Texas (things were rough there for many years, and dumpster diving had yielded some good stuff). I giggled. I’d gotten it from a coworker. I had gotten a mattress from a dumpster when I’d only been in Texas for a couple of years (and was glad to have it- Lysol it down, and it worked fine just parked on the floor). But not the one I had when I moved back up here. He was very relieved, and asked me if I still wanted the bed. I told him I’d gotten excited about the whole idea, so we went to the Gustafson’s “Oops” department (seriously, they have a neon “Oops” over the room with the mismatched bed sets) and got a great pillow top bed. I could have kept dad’s king sized bed when I had the auction people come , but I want the one he bought for me when I move into the house.
Last year, dad asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, and I told him I really wanted to go to Nicholas Conservatory’s Lorikeet exhibit. He said “You can pick anything and you want to play with birds?” Yup ! So off we went. He joined me with the birds, and said he’d enjoyed it as well.
I’m sure I’ll remember a lot more good stuff as time goes on. There’s still so much rattling through my head about the last two months. But one thing is constant. I am lucky to have had dad in my life. My biological parents (teens at the time) didn’t want to give me up, but God put me in a really good home since they couldn’t keep me. I was blessed to have landed where I did.