Four years ago, I lost my Dad. It was unexpected and caught me completely by surprise. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as helpless and scared as when the Doctors told us that the infection had just spread too quickly and was beyond treating. When my Mom died, Dad was there to take care of the “grown-up” stuff; he coordinated the memorial service, made the arrangements to go to Iowa for her burial, and took care of all the other things that have to be taken care of when one loses a spouse. As I stood at his bedside, I realized that all the planning and arranging would now fall on my shoulders. Suddenly, I would become the “grown-up” when, in many ways, I felt as if I were 16 again.
I’m not what anyone would consider a Daddy’s Girl. For as long as I can remember, my dad and I butted heads over almost everything. Despite that, there are many things about my relationship with him that I will never forget:
- He took me Trick-or-Treating every Halloween when I was a kid. When we got home, he would dump out my candy and go through it, picking out the pieces he liked, saying, “You have to share some of this with your mother and I.”
- On the 4th of July he’d take my sisters and I to the best firework shows and “oooo and ahhh” right along with us over the really big ones.
- He taught me how to fly a kite and told me it wasn’t any reason to cry just because I couldn’t get it off the ground.
- When I wanted to learn how to play the guitar, he bought me one and paid for lessons and when I wanted to quit because after two lessons I couldn’t play anything by Led Zeppelin, he made me continue practicing and going to lessons for the rest of the month.
- He made me sit at the dining room table for an hour every night and practice my handwriting. To this day, I can’t read my own handwriting, probably because all I did was crab and moan for an hour about how much I hated it.
- He taught me how to shoot a basketball (“Com’on – You’re not a little girl! You’re strong enough to shoot it from above your head, not from your chest”), throw a football (“Put your fingers between the laces when you hold the ball”), field a softball (“Two hands for beginners”), bowl a strike (“You want to shake hands with the head pin, then pull your thumb out of the ball first and follow through until your thumb touches your ear”), shoot a 22 and a 38 (“SQUEEZE the trigger, don’t PULL the trigger”), hammer a nail (“Come down slowly at first until you’re sure the nail and hammer are lined up”), change a tire (“No one is going to do this for you, so you better learn how”), mow the grass (“Mow in a straight line and I better not come home and see clippings all over the lawn”) and drive the family car (“Line up with the center line and SLOW DOWN”).
- He never missed a Valentine’s day. When I went through the stage that most adolescent girls my age did, thinking chocolate caused blemishes, he got me a two-inch tall candle of Garfield the Cat that said, “I love you.” I still have the candle sitting on my desk at work.
- He took me and 5 of my best friends to Magic Mountain for the day when I turned 16.
- He picked me up at midnight when I wanted to stay late roller skating and at 2 in the morning after Halloween Haunt at Knott’s Berry Farm.
- He came to every basketball game, softball game, track meet, Police Explorer event or special program I was in.
- He never came home from an out-of-town trip without bringing me something from where he’d been.
I know that I was not an easy child to raise and I wasn’t much fun to be around after I got older, either. I spent a lot of years being angry with my Dad because he seemed to disagree with everything I said and did and he and I spent two or three years not speaking because we couldn’t say two words to each other without the conversation turning into a yelling match. When we finally made peace with each other, I realized that I was the one that had been wrong and I was the one that had to learn how to accept him for who he was. I also realized that who he was wasn’t the bad guy I’d made him out to be. I always swore that I would never grow up to be like him. The funny thing is, I’m almost 50 and I realize I’m more like him now than I’ve ever been and in more ways than I ever imagined. Somehow, that dosen’t seem like such a bad thing anymore.
I don’t know what happens when people die, but I hope that wherever he is, my Dad knows how much I regret the time I spent being angry with him, treating him like he didn’t exist, and thinking I knew everything there was to know about anything. Like the saying goes, I very much wish that I knew then what I know now. What I do know is that my Dad died too young and I wasn’t really prepared for him to go.
I love you Dad, and I hope somehow you know how very much I miss you.
Clarence Ira Danger – 4/11/40 – 8/24/06 Zichrona liv’racha.