My very first car ride was with my father. I was only a couple of days old, and he was so excited to get me home and introduce me to my new world. Having him as a dad made my life as a baby awesome. Him and I would have endless conversations about our days, go on park and restaurant dates, and, my personal favorite, play a game of “steal daddy’s cap and watch the ceiling fan.”
As I got into my toddler and early education days, my mom was often traveling for work. This left the responsibility of raising me to my dad, which he absolutely loved. He did everything — dressed me, fixed my hair, fed me, made sure I didn’t fall & injure myself — you know, the usual. My dad fully retired from work once I made it to kindergarten, and that is where the real fun began. While most kids were used to their moms being the classroom aids and members of the PTA, I was lucky enough to have my dad doing that. He would be in my class two to three days out of the week, helping my classmates with writing and math, and cooking us food & treats every Friday. The lunch dates still continued, as he would bring me McDonald’s chicken nuggets to school and sit with me at the Parents & Kids table. The biggest secret him & I held from the school system was that I wasn’t a genuine “Math Superstar” — it was really my dad sitting with me teaching me how to do the problems. Unfortunately, the attempts to get me to succeed in math didn’t fully work — I may have gotten decent grades with him, but I’m still really awful at the subject when he’s not around for help.
The middle and high school years were kind of rough, as I was usually in a bad mood for whatever reason whenever he’d pick me up from school. His patience with me was outstanding, and to this day I have no idea how he was able to put up with me. Car rides were usually filled with short conversation, “the rest of the story” from Paul Harvey, and whatever Sean Hannity had to discuss that day. I heard enough of talk radio during those years to last me a lifetime, but oddly enough, I didn’t mind listening to it.
Our relationship got better when I got to college, because we began to understand each other more. Once upon a time, I used to get offended when my mom would say I was just like him, but as I got older that offense turned into pride because I finally started to really get to know him. We weren’t conversationalists, often times spending our days in separate rooms, but we always checked up on each other periodically to see what was happening on the other’s television and have short chats about it. We were big nappers, taking at least an hour nap every day we spent together. I was spending so much time at home towards the end that it got to the point where he would complain to my mom that I needed to get out and find friends, even if I had to pay for them. If you’re reading this, Dad, I’m happy to announce that I have found friends to hang out with, free of charge!
My dad’s final ride on Earth was in an ambulance, transferring him from the hospital to Hospice. Just like in the beginning of my life, we were together. As usual, our conversation was about nothing, but filled with smiles and wonder at the world around us. He passed away almost two days later, holding my hand. That would traumatize most people, but for me, I was honored that I was the last hand he wanted to hold on Earth. Even though I was heartbroken and crying, there was no greater peace in my heart than in that moment.
To quote The Fault in Our Stars, my dad gave me “forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.” There aren’t enough words to describe how honored and privileged I am to have had such an amazing man as my father. He taught me the power of having a peaceful heart, how to maintain a strong faith, and so much more.
Dad, your legacy is one that can’t possibly be matched, but if I can maintain even half of it for the rest of my life, I’ll consider it a job well done. Thank you so, so much for everything. I love you.