I have written a great deal about my Mom and what she meant to our family. She was a good and kind woman who loved us strongly and boldly. She touched many lives and is greatly missed, but there was always someone standing beside her and that is my Dad. He is a man who loves my sister and I a great deal. He also loves his grandkids with the same ferocity that Mom always showed.
I was never a Daddy’s girl that title went to Kara without a doubt. She was his shadow, following behind him as he did the simplest of tasks. If Dad went to get wood for the stove then Kara followed behind. If Dad took out the garbage then Kara was no more than three paces behind. She was his shadow, following behind him as he did the simplest of tasks. He coached her sporting teams and helped her practice batting and catching. While, I never was one for sports or the outdoors he drove me to the skating rink and took me to friend’s houses. Kristi and I would jam ourselves into his beige pickup truck and he would drop us off at the mall on a Friday night, and then at 9:30 he would be waiting at the front to pick us back up. Never did Dad make us feel like he didn’t have enough time for us. Never did we feel like we weren’t his first priority.
As each of us become parents we silently think about the way we were raised and what we want to do that is different or the same as our parents. I know that my Dad did that too. He, like many, made a conscious effort to not be like his father. He was there every day. He worked hard to provide for his family. He had an amazing work ethic, working when sick or hurt. “Make hay when the sun is shining,” is the adage that my Mom always used. He loved Mom and was not afraid to show it. Never, not one time, in my life have I ever wondered, if he thought Mom was beautiful. It was always obvious to anyone that he thought she was radiant. He set out to be a good husband and father and did a damn fine job of it if you ask me.
If I close my eyes and picture Dad I think of our house on Herman Avenue. I see him sitting on the bed with his brown leather bible in front of him. He is propped up with a nasty pale blue backrest that Mom was desperate to throw away. This was the norm on a Saturday night. Dad working on his Sunday lesson and Mom coming home from work with a to-go box filled with fried fish and French fries. My mom would sit on her side of the bed and pull out a wad of one dollar bills from waitressing. Kara, Dad, and I would sit on the bed and pick through the box of fish while Mom told us about her night. It was the casualness of family that I remember so fondly.
Once I cut the knee out of a pair of jeans. Guess jeans, which in the late eighties was like ripping a hole in a brick of gold. I wanted to look like the girls in Poison videos on MTV. I was never going to be thin, buxom, and have hair that resembled a lion’s mane, so I decided that the least I could do is have the knees of one of those girls. In my defense the jeans already had a small hole in the knee, but that ended up being a moot point. I took a pair of scissors from Mom’s sewing box and started to cut on each side of the small hole. The line was as straight as a scalpel incision and in no way resembled a hole that would have been created by falling on the front walk. I cut, and little by little, the small tear took over the whole knee. When Dad returned home at precisely 5:17 like he did every night I started to spin a tale about how I had fallen (which was true) and ripped a hole into the knee of my jeans (kind of a half truth). That night my father said to me the two words that I dreaded the most, “Un-cool, Heather.”
I have no idea what happens after, “Un-cool, Heather,” is uttered. I assume that building fall and the sun is covered by a thick black fog. Birds stop chirping and the world is silent. Hearing, “Un-cool, Heather,” is a sign that my father is so angry that he is sitting on his hands in an attempt to stop from committing a most heinous crime. That night that I cut my jeans Dad put me in the car and drove me to Kingsway Skateland. He was literally so angry at me that I could not be in his sight. I have done some things in my life that deserved a little wrath. I cuss like a sailor. I have two illegitimate children. I have tattooed myself. I have pierced myself. I will talk endlessly and with little shame about my sexual escapades, but I have never seen him as angry as the night that I decimated my Guess Jeans. Luckily I escaped with little more than a lesson learned and a story that will live in Young family infamy.
Our family has changed forever and Dad’s place in the family is forever altered. I will never forget the sound of Dad’s voice when he made the phone call that Mom had died. I will never forget how much we laughed and cried while planning her funeral. The love of his life was gone and now he had to bury her. I cannot understand the pain he must have felt when he had to turn his back and walk away from the room she died in. What I do know is that I am thankful every day that this man showed me what love is. He showed me in a sometimes imperfect ways what a man should be: kind, loving, strong, funny, flawed, and a staunch defender of Guess Jeans.
I love you Dad.