Monday, April 30, 2012

My Daddy Tribute: Z is for Zappy

Again, I refer to that fabulous site that has assisted me greatly during this challenge. I found a word on The Phrontistery that describes my father well: zappy. The definition is "lively; entertaining." If you have been reading through this blog or knew my father in person, you would have to agree that this sums him up pretty well. Even when he was sick or just wasn't feeling well, he was an entertaining man. He was a bundle of energy that could fill a room, in a good way. He was a tremendous person who is greatly missed by many people.

To those of you who have been taking this journey with me this month, I would like to say thank you. I didn't quite pull it off in the proper fashion, as I have had to write in big bursts of posts. But the challenge is now complete. I feel reconnected to my father again. I have laughed and cried while reminiscing about him this month. With it being a year since he got sick and almost a year since he died, I am feeling more and more closure and acceptance. Thanks for sharing this with me.

My Daddy Tribute: Y is for Young

After Dad died last year, many people asked me how old he was. They assumed he was older, considering all of his health issues. When they heard he was only 68, they all said, "Oh, that's so young."

Yes, it was young. His own father was even younger when he died. He was only 66.

My father knew that he was going to die at a young age. I don't know for certain how he knew, other than his acknowledgement of all of his health issues. He had been sick since he was a young boy. I didn't realize how sick he had been until family discussions after he had passed away.

Perhaps that is why my father always stayed young at heart. He always got along well with kids and enjoyed joking with them. My friends all loved him. The kids at the jail where he worked between the store and his retirement got a big kick out of him. As people shared memories of him, they often talked about his jovial spirit.

I guess Billy Joel said it best when he said that only the good die young.

My Daddy Tribute: X is for Xenial

According to The Phrontistery, the word "xenial" means "of or concerning hospitality toward guests." I guess you could say that my father was a xenial person.

My parents' home was always full of guests. When I was a young child, they had an annual Christmas party. The small apartment in which we lived at their store would fill up with dozens of friends and family. Dad belonged to AA and sponsored numerous young men. They were always welcome in our home and often played in the pool after meetings. I had many friends who had to leave home for one reason or another. My parents would put them up for a few weeks until they could get back on their feet. We had more friends over than family during many holidays, such as Thanksgiving. At any function, my father was one of the first to greet every guest. He had a knack for remembering everyone's name and something about them. He always made people feel welcome and appreciated.

My Daddy Tribute: W is for Watch

When Dad would shower and shave, he would remove his rings and his watch. He hated it if I sat and watched him shave, but every once in a while he would allow it.

One day, when I was two years old, he forgot to put on his watch before leaving the bathroom. When he realized it was missing, he practically tore apart the bathroom looking for it. I believe it belonged to his father, who had recently been diagnosed with cancer. (He died when I was three.)

When he was ready to give up the search, Dad finally decided to give in and ask his beloved daughter if she had any idea where Daddy's watch could be. I looked up at him with my angelic face and said in my sweetest voice, "It's not in the toilet!"

Dad made a beeline for the bathroom and lifted up the lid. Sure enough, there was his watch, at the bottom of the toilet!

Lucky for him, and probably for me, the watch dried out and was functional again for several more years. And thus was born Dad's favorite story to tell everyone I ever met.

My Daddy Tribute: V is for Vicar of Dibley

Dad was a huge fan of British comedies. In his later years, he regularly watched The Vicar of Dibley and Keeping Up Appearances. Just like when he was watching The Golden Girls, he would laugh hysterically at the jokes and puns, even if he had seen the episodes a dozen times before.

When I was a kid, I remember watching lots of other comedies with him. He was a big fan of Benny Hill. As an adult, I realize how much of that actually went over my head. Sometimes I can't believe I was allowed to watch that with him! He also watched a lot of Monty Python's Flying Circus and the various movies. He also was hooked on Absolutely Fabulous.

It's his fault that I am now addicted to the same.

My Daddy Tribute: U is for Unique Bedtime Routine

When I was little, I had a bedtime routine that was unique to my father and him. The normal part was that I was supposed to go potty before climbing into bed. What was unique was how my father would get me to actually pee.

I had a large Raggedy Ann doll that someone had made for me. She was one of my favorites and always accompanied me to bed. While I would sit on the toilet, Dad would lie on his back on the bathroom floor. He would suddenly yell, "Raggedy Ann! Your clock struck again! BOING!" and throw her up in the air. I don't know why that was so funny, but I would laugh until know.

Every once in a while he would perform a variation, using my beloved blankie. I remember one night when he misfired and Blankie ended up going over the shower curtain and got wet. I wasn't too happy about that.

Once my business was finished, I washed my hands and scampered through the door to their adjoining bedroom. The three of us would curl up in the bed to talk and to read books. When my sister got a little older, she would join us. And then I would have to go to sleep in my own bedroom.

Those are some of my most favorite memories of my father. We joked about that for years.

My Daddy Tribute: T is for Tickling

Many families have a favorite pastime of tickling battles, especially when the kids are little. Dad was positively brutal when it came to the tickling! He would chase me around the house and always managed to get my feet. No matter how much I kicked and screamed, he would keep on tickling my feet!

To this day, I cannot stand to have someone tickle my feet. I don't even like my feet to be touched. I remember when I got hit by a car while crossing the street in college, I had to go to the hospital to be examined. The doctor ran his finger up the bottom of my feet to make sure I still had feeling. I almost kicked him in the nuts as an impulse.

I know that some people would say that it's my father's fault that I have an aversion to feet. Maybe it is. But I don't see it as anything really bad or truly traumatizing. To be honest, I think I just have sensory issues with my feet in general that have nothing to do with them being tickled. I eventually got used to people touching them when I underwent reflexology for migraines and other ailments. As for my father, that tickling torture is just another one of my fond memories from childhood.

My Daddy Tribute: S is for Siblings

My father was the second in line with one boy ahead of him and two sisters behind him. He seemed to be a classic middle child, always trying to get attention. The older of his two younger sisters is my godmother. She wanted to contribute some of the memories of the siblings to this project and sent me an email of them. Here are a few of my favorites from her collection.

He was forever the teaser…..talking to my friends about the ghosts in the cemetery behind our house. I remember one night my friend was over and we made an anonymous call to a boy. Rick got on the other extension and made sure that boy knew who was calling On another night when Mom and Dad were out, he talked my friend and me into getting dressed up and stuffing our boobs with socks and then standing next to Monroe St. like that. When a car came and slowed down, we would run into the bushes

Of course, you can’t talk about Rick without talking about farting. Not sure why my brothers both got such a kick out of that!!! Rick used to fart and say “FINS” after which stood for SNIF spelled backwards. More silliness!

One time Linda had a date for a prom and Rick and I dressed up like her parents and greeted the poor guy at the door who had no idea what he was in for We thought we were so freaking funny!

Not sure what just made me think of this but Rick always from a young age gave the BEST gifts. He always put so much thought into the gifts he gave and had such great taste. I still have some necklaces he gave me about 40 years ago and I still wear them from time to time.

My Daddy Tribute: R is for Richard

My father's name was Richard. Here is what some websites have to say about his name's meaning and origin:

Think Baby Names

Think Baby Names says that Richard is of German origin and means "powerful leader." My father often went by Rick and family called him Ricky. According to this site, Ricky also means "peaceful ruler."

Baby Names World

Baby Names World has Richard as being of French origin, meaning "strong power, hardy power."

Behind the Name

According to Behind the Name, Richard means "brave power" and was brought to the British by the Normans. It is more popular in Hungary than in America right now.

My Daddy Tribute: Q is for Quiet

It was hard to come up with a word for the letter Q that accurately describes my father. I even tried to do a search for adjectives and other words, but none of them really seemed to fit. So, I have resorted to just using "quiet."

Usually when you think of the word "quiet" you think of someone's volume. My father wasn't that kind of quiet, nor was he loud. When I associate the word "quiet" with my father, I think more along the lines of holding things in. Dad was not someone who spoke a lot about his true feelings, as in his deeper emotions. He believed that people talked too much and accused me of regularly oversharing. He probably would be freaking out if he knew that I have been writing about him all month on this blog.

When my father mourned, he held it in. He never liked to allow anyone to see him cry. When he succumbed to his grief, he tried to turn it off as quickly as possible. He didn't like to talk about his feelings. Sure, he shared his opinions, but that was different. He also would hold back on his other emotions. I have only a few memories of really hugging my father when I was a kid. I never doubted that he loved me, but he wasn't always hugging on us like my mother did. It wasn't until his later years that he finally started to give in to his emotions and to demonstrate them in public. His mother was exactly the same way.

Dad was opposed to talking publicly about Mom's Alzheimer's for a very long time. I was even forbidden to discuss it outside of the family. He finally came around to wanting to talk about it and to share about it thirteen months ago, on the eve of this challenge last year. I had told him that I wanted to start a blog called How to Laugh at Alzheimer's. Its purpose would be for us to share our journey with Mom and to reach out to others in similar situations. He conceded and looked forward to contributing. But two weeks later, just before I could get him set up to help me with it, he went into the coma. I guess he was destined to remain quiet.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

My Daddy Tribute: P is for Pride

My father was proud man, but not in the negative sense of the word. He was proud of his family and of our accomplishments. I have said before that we often heard about how he would talk about us to everyone. He and my mother often told us that they were proud of us. Sure, neither one of us chose careers that would make us any money. But we loved what we did, and that was more important.

When conversations arose about me moving back home to help out, they said absolutely not. My life was no longer there. They wanted me to keep growing and moving in a forward direction. To move back home would be to move backwards, and that wasn't right.

I remember my father's excitement the first time I had something publish on what was then known as Associated Content. He was excited to tell people that his daughter had finally been published. I subscribed him to all of my writing sites and he read every word I wrote. (At least that is what he said to me.) I know he forwarded some things on to other people.

He also loved to share my photographs. He spoke highly of my sister's devotion to her missionary career. He also loved to talk about her incredible art talent, even though she barely used it. Her artworks were always proudly displayed in the living room for all to see.

I still often grab the phone to call my parents when I have had a big accomplishment. It's hard for me to not hear their voices telling me how proud they are of me, but I know they still are. And I am proud to be their daughter.

My Daddy Tribute: O is for Opinionated

My father was one of the most opinionated people I had ever met. He knew what he knew and believed what he wanted to believe, and there was no way of persuading him to think otherwise. He would debate topics with people for hours on end. He always seemed well-informed. He had an amazing knack to remember all kinds of dates and facts about all kinds of topics. He could pull out this information in a split second to try to knock down your theories or opinions. That is a dangerous person to go up against in an argument!

Unfortunately for him, that meant he raised a daughter who was able to do the same thing. We may not have always agreed on topics, but we could debate them. Sometimes, especially when I was younger, I think I purposely picked the opposite point-of-view, just to get his goat. I swear he did the same to his own parents.

I miss his wisdom and our debates.

My Daddy Tribute: N is for Naughty

My father was quite naughty. When he was a young kid, he had that devilish look in his eye, even at the young age of 5, as shows in this picture of his kindergarten portrait.

I have students like that in my classroom. I know what that look means. Honestly, they can also be the most fun to have in your class. I like stinkers. This is probably why.

My aunts have numerous stories to tell about the harassment that they received from my father when they were little. Older brothers are notoriously naughty to their younger sisters. Somehow, I think he was even worse than their other older brother. He would taunt them and their dates. He picked on everyone he met. That was a sign of affection, though. The more he liked you, the more he would harass you.

People would meet my father and comment to me how naughty he was with his sense of humor. Dad would just tell it like it was, but always manged to through a humorous spin on things. He would be a stinker on my Facebook posts. One comment I remember hearing, that I am sure I have said before, was how much people would miss his posts.

My sister and I have inherited his naughty streak. I actually take it as a compliment when someone tells me I am being naughty.

My Daddy Tribute: M is for Manly Man

I always hated shopping for my dad around Father's Day and holidays. The stores were always boasting all kinds of sales with your father in mind. "Your dad will love these new power tools!" "Get Dad what he really wants - a new set of golf clubs!" Dads were always being shown with their fancy toys and their sports stuff. After all, isn't that the epitome of a manly man? The Tim Allen figure with his loud tools and the big sports buffoon?

My father wasn't that kind of "manly man." Sure, he liked his tools, but used them for gardening, art, and working in the store. He could care less about sports. I wasn't raised in a house that watched a lot of football, basketball, baseball, etc. I think sometimes my father wondered where on earth I got that gene that made me a football freak in my adult life. The only times I can remember him actually watching football were when I was home visiting.

Does this lack of being a manly man mean that father was less of a man? I think not. I would rather define a father as the kind of man who takes on the responsibility of a family and does whatever it takes to care for them. He doesn't strike his wife nor children. He enjoys being in their company. That is more important that tools or sports any day.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Not leaving A to Z!

I feel like I need to put a post on all of my blogs. Yes, I am WAY behind on the challenge. Life keeps getting in my way. I should have listened to that gut instinct of mine that said, "Write them early!" Lol

Anyway, I have a ton of writing time coming up again soon and will be cranking them out and I WILL finish this month! On all of them! Promise!!

My Daddy Tribute: L is for Laughing

My father loved to laugh. Even when times were rough, he would find a way to laugh. It's the only way to get through some of those horrible situations, such as dealing with my mother's Alzheimer's. The joking was more of a defense mechanism and not intended to be cruel or demeaning. It's something I have inherited.

Dad's sense of humor was legendary. My friends on Facebook always loved reading his quips on my photos and posts. Everyone who met him would always comment on how funny he was. People would remember his jokes for a really long time. I had one coworker who seemed to be the only other person in the world who knew John Pinette's famous comedic bit about being the fat man eating at the Chinese buffet. "You been here four hour, you go now!" For years after she met my parents, she would send me messages when I was with my father, using that particular quote. In fact, my father could never eat in a Chinese restaurant without launching into the bit, himself.

He loved to watch funny movies and TV shows. His favorite show was The Golden Girls. He knew every line of every episode and always laughed as if it was the first time he had heard it. His head would throw back and he would just let out the biggest guffaw. Sometimes my mom would come running, thinking he had hurt himself or was sick. It would always be just that he was laughing so hard at something. One of our good family friends could always judge how funny something was by whether or not he could see the roof of Dad's mouth while he was laughing. It amplified the contagious nature of his laughter. Even if you were mad at him, you almost couldn't help yourself but to laugh when he did.

I miss that laugh, but can still hear it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Daddy Tribute: K is for Kids

When my father was dying, I heard a few comments. One was how sad it was that my parents hadn't done more with their lives. They didn't really travel. They didn't really have a retirement. And then I heard comments that my parents' worlds revolved around us - their kids.

I think that is quite true. Our little nuclear family was all we had. Sure, we had relatives on both sides of the family. Both of them had brothers and sisters, who in turn had children. But distance and age differences and other factors prevented us from always getting together with them. But we had each other.

My parents didn't need to go out to see the world. They got to see the world through our eyes. My sister is a seasoned world traveler, thanks to her job. I have only been to France and Switzerland. Two of those trips were with my father.

When they gave up the furniture store, they led a new working life. It was one that actually had vacation time. What a concept. But instead of taking that time to go explore somewhere on their own, they preferred to take time to come visit their kids. It was easy when my sister and I both lived in the same city a few states over. They could come stay with one and visit us both, all in one shot. They lived for us coming home to visit them on our breaks. In fact, I spent almost every single school vacation back at their house. Others I know were taking fantastic vacations. I just always wanted to go home and spend time with my grandma and my parents. I knew that I wouldn't have them forever. I just didn't expect our time to be cut so short so soon.

Dad always seemed like the kind of guy who didn't want a lot to do with kids. Sure, he had fun playing with them here and there. But he was always grateful when the quiet time came when they went home. I remember being surprised when he started bugging me about having kids. He is the one who once said to me, "Your mother and I don't care anymore if you get married. We just want the grandkids!" He loved looking at pictures of his siblings' grandkids and dreamed of being able to post a zillion of his own photographs on Facebook. He loved having my cousins visit with their beautiful daughters.

The closest I ever came for him was when I dated a man who had custody of his five year-old daughter. That relationship didn't work out and about 14 years have passed. No grandkids have ever made it into the picture. I think my dad would have been a great grandfather. He would have had a short period of patience, but would have enjoyed every second of being with them. I'm sorry for my future kids and their father that they will have never met him.

Monday, April 16, 2012

My Daddy Tribute: J is for Jail

No, my father was never in jail. At least not as far as I know! (And if you know something I don't, please do not tarnish my image of my father! LOL) But he did work at a juvenile jail for several years. When my parents decided to give up their furniture store, my father managed to secure a position working in a juvenile detention center. He worked a lot of first shift at that time and had a chance to interact with the kids.

My father always had a soft spot for boys who needed positive role models. He did a lot of sponsorships in AA for about 30 years. I had all kinds of "brothers" while I was growing up. And when he was at the detention center, he got to do the same thing.

Eventually he moved over to the residential facility, where offenders stayed for more long-term sentences. I think the kids respected him for the most part, because he respected them. He liked to joke around with them and treated them like human beings. Sometimes, these troubled boys just want someone to pay attention to them.

As Dad's health declined, he eventually had to move to the third shift. That meant less walking around and less liability because he was unlikely to have to chase someone down at that hour. I know he really missed the kids, though, not being able to see them all day long. I remember him being really upset when one of the boys committed suicide. At least it wasn't on his watch, but he was still quite shaken up by the incident.

When Dad finally reached retirement age, he gave in to retirement. He never quite got over that third shift kind of a schedule. He was often still up all night and slept all day. It made it hard on him because my mom was on an opposite schedule. Toward the end, they seemed to compromise more. He didn't really miss the politics of being at the jail, but I know he missed a couple of his coworkers and again the kids.

A few of them came to pay their respects at his memorial service. I think he would have liked that.

I wonder how many lives he truly touched while he was there....

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I Hate 10:30 PM

Yes, I like to mark anniversaries. I have to note time passed as part of my own healing process. Some people think it is dwelling and just being depressing. I beg to differ. For me, when I know I have made it through a year, I can see how much stronger I have become.

Today begins marking some of the most important one-year anniversaries of my life. For it was one year ago today that I got the phone call from my relatives saying that Dad had been rushed to the hospital by ambulance. At the time, we still thought everything was going to be okay. They had caught the brain bleed and were transferring him up to St. V's in the morning, where they specialize in such things. We didn't know at the time how serious it actually was, nor could we predict that it would spiral out of control so fast.

Somehow, though, I had a sense it was ending. I stayed calm while talking to them on the phone and then I called off of work. I was supposed to leave early the next day, anyway, to get home in time to pick my sister up from the local airport. We were both already going home for that weekend. And then I called The Man, with whom I had officially broken up one week prior. My hand was involuntarily shaking like I have never seen it before. He talked me down and I went to sleep.

I got that original phone call at 10:30 p.m. It's never good news when someone calls you so late.

Seven weeks later, Dad passed away. Time of death? 10:30 p.m.

A couple of days later as I am sitting alone in his house, my phone rings again. Time? 10:30 p.m. It was the nursing home. My stomach went up into my throat, especially when I heard the apprehensive voice of the nurse. She was okay, but had accidentally found out that Dad had died. The comical part was she was "behaving inappropriately in a sexual manner with another resident." (Before you freak out - Mom has Alzheimer's and at times confused other men for being Dad.)

To this day, one year later, I still freak out when the phone rings so late. A few people tell me to just turn it off. I can't. I am first call for my mother, so I keep it on and near me at all times. I look forward to being able to relax more at that hour.

My Daddy Tribute: I is for Insert Intelligent Sarcasm Here

My father was the King of Sarcasm. If people ever wanted to know from where I got it, they knew after spending a little bit of time with him. But it wasn't meant to be cruel. He always meant it in a light-hearted way and expected you to get it on an intellectual level.

Dad was also notorious for interjecting his opinion on everything. It didn't matter what the topic was. He would let you speak for a while and then had to insert his two cents' worth. Actually sometimes, it was more like two dollars' worth. The more he respected you and your intelligence, the more he had to say, sarcastically or seriously.

I think I got the brunt of that intellectual discourse when I was growing up. I am naturally argumentative. I prefer to think of it as debating. I used to pick up books on certain topics and memorize the information in them, just to piss him off and to spark debate. When I got older, I realized that we actually saw eye-to-eye on many hot topics. We just argued our points differently.

He and my sister also spend many hours debating intellectual design and other religious topics. He seemed to use less of that sarcasm with her, though. I guess I just bring it out in people.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Daddy Tribute: H is for Heart and Hugs

Daddy was a man with a big heart. He didn't always like to show it, but if you knew him at all, you knew it to be true. He could make anyone feel special. He had an amazing ability to remember everyone's name and some kind of a connection. That way, he was able to talk to anyone he met, even if it had been a while. And he didn't dominate the conversation.

Dad liked to pretend he wasn't big on kids. I guess when we were little, he wasn't sure what to do with us. But in his later years, as we were growing up, he had a lot of fun with them. They brought out a softer side to him that wasn't always so obvious. In my first 20 years of life, I only remember my father crying twice. Once was while we were watching My Girl and Macauley Culkins' character dies. The second was when my cousins' two year-old son was killed in a freak accident. This picture is the younger sibling of that little boy (who was born a couple of years later). I just love this picture of my dad. (Sorry, I have no scanner, so it's a picture of a picture.)

In his final year, he cried a lot. He sobbed like a baby when his mother died at the age of 95. I was only 3 when his father died and remember only a little. But I remember my mother always saying that he refused to show emotion when his father passed away. And then one day they went to visit the grave and he just collapsed.

My father also frequently cried about my mother. He would just be talking to me and then would sob for about 30 seconds. And then he would make himself stop. They had been together for almost 40 years. Despite all of their ups and downs, he truly loved her and couldn't stand to watch her deteriorate.

When my father died, so many people share their favorite stories about him. Everyone always talked about how he was so generous with himself and put so much thought into little things like gifts. Parents told me how they were always grateful how he helped their sons battle drug and alcohol addiction. As we were planning his memorial, the pastor told about a time he sat next to my father, who was out of breath, on the bench outside the sanctuary. He was really struggling that day. And then he said how he knew it would be okay and launched into the children's song "Jesus Loves Me." I don't know a lot of men who would expose themselves that way.

Even after he died, his love for his family still seemed evident. I will swear up and down that when I made my first phone call to other family members, I could feel his arms around me. Dad was never into hugs. In his last few years, though, he started doing it more and more. I still remember the last time I left him, at the end of that Christmas break. I gave him a hug goodbye. He held on like he knew it was the last time he would see me. (Ironically, the last time I had seen his mother, also a person pretty much adverse to hugging, she had done the same thing. It was just a few months before this.) That final week in the LTAC facility, a couple of days before he was moved into Hospice, he "rallied." His eyes finally opened for the first time in 6 weeks and he could sort of communicate. I remember getting ready to leave that night. I was so exhausted and just needed to get some sleep. A couple of tears actually slid out of his eyes. I put my arms across him and my head on his shoulder. He actually turned and pressed his cheek into mine. It was our final hug, at least on Earth.

I always used to think that my big heart came from my mother. But now when I look back at my parents' lives, I can see how they equally contributed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Daddy Tribute: G is for Gardening

My father was known as an artist both on the canvas and in his own yard. He had a talent for gardening that was unmatched. Sure, he would do traditional styles of gardening, but he had his own passion for design. He loved curves and lots of color. He made sure he had perennials that would pop up at different times through the entire growing season. And he always accented with tons of annuals.

Another thing he loved in his gardens were rocks. When I was a kid, there was a terraced bed that I called my "basement." Rocks lined both "stories" of the basement. Flat rocks made up the steps and path that wound through it. He continued this kind of tradition at all of the places he and my mother lived. I remember Mom took over the mowing when Dad's asthma and emphysema became too much for him to handle doing it. She would always curse going around those curves and rocks, but she loved how they all looked.

Dad also would add other things to his garden. He usually had some kind of birdbath and birdfeeders in his yard, because he also liked to birdwatch. Every once in a while, he would purchase some kind of a random piece or yard ornament to include.

Two of my favorites were a rock and a statue. Because my parents had two girls, they ended up with two of those little girl statues. I saved mine, but it is being held for me back home right now. My other favorite was a rock that we bought for him one year for Christmas. It says, "Grow Damnit." It is now in my own yard, awaiting a place of honor.

A lot of my father's gardening rubbed off on me. I love to spend time digging in the dirt. I have dabbled in doing gardening and yard work for other people for summer work. I have my own eclectic style of gardening that doesn't follow traditional rules of layout. I collect rocks to add to my gardens, whether they are from going to the beach or from my many hikes.

When I put in my large perennial bed at this house, my father was here to help me with it. I had reinjured an old break in my leg above my ankle a few days after I had dug up the area. My mom had come out to take care of me for that week and then went back to get Dad for a preplanned visit. While I scooted around on my butt, he helped me to fill in the bed, terrace the steps, and to lay the path and rock border. We spent a week getting it together and it has been coming together nicely over the years. This is a picture of it in spring bloom in the summer of 2009.

That bench, the pathway, and the rocks along the top layer (flush with the sidewalk step) were all lovingly carted by my parents from my place in Ohio. I couldn't bear to leave them behind when I moved. And they fit in perfectly with this garden.

Dad helped me to pick out some of the plants, including the Japanese maple. I did the rest. Over the years I have been adding more bulbs. I have neglected it somewhat these past couple of summers. In 2010 I had to have surgery and last year, well, I didn't feel like it after Dad died. But this year I am slowly bringing it back to life again.

I love to take pictures of the flowers and the garden. I post them on Facebook. One of Dad's favorite things was to check out my daily postings. He would print out his favorites with the intention of possibly painting their picture one day.

Last year when I finally got home from the ordeal, my rose bushes were in bloom like I had never seen before. I like to think that my father had a hand in that somehow.

Some day, I will have to leave this house, to move on to bigger and brighter things. It is going to be awful to leave behind the garden that we built together. But I will always cherish the memories.

My Daddy Tribute: F is for Farts

Come on now, farts are funny. They were funny when we were kids and they are still funny as adults. We just try to act a bit more mature about it now. At least in public.

My father was the king of the fart jokes. He had such a reputation for his own noxious odors that friends and family alike couldn't pass up a good fart joke card without picking it up for him. He would send them out to his own friends and family. When we were packing up my parents' house after he passed away, we found that he had saved quite a number of them. And fart stories could be shared in abundance.

I remember having a friend stay with us in junior high. Her mother was in the hospital and her father was out of the picture. So, she slept in my room. She used to joke that she didn't have to set the alarm, because my father, a.k.a. Trumpet Trousers, tooted his horn at the same time every morning. My parents' bedroom was right across the hall from mine. They rarely had their door shut, and you could hear everything in that house.

I still remember going to eat at a particular restaurant with my family when I was in college. Granted, it wasn't totally upscale dining, but this was no Denny's or Big Boy. For that small town, it was quite nice dining. We were getting ready to leave. Dad had been snickering about a woman who was about 6 1/2 feet tall and at least 3 feet wide. He was making a snarky remark about "Amazon Women on the Moon." (Did you ever see that movie?) See, because he was a large man, he felt he could make fun of his fellow large people.

Anyway, I got him to knock it off, because while he was being funny, it was also a bit obnoxious. He pushed his chair back and went to stand up. He realized that he was right next to his Amazon Woman. He fell forward onto the chair to support himself while he laughed. And he cut the biggest, loudest fart I think anyone has ever heard in that restaurant.

My mother and I were so embarrassed that we couldn't help but fall back into our chairs laughing. My younger sister, a teenager at the time, was so mortified that she literally dove under the table. Dad started laughing even harder, until tears were streaming down his face. He sputtered an apology to the woman and her table and somehow managed to walk out of the restaurant. I know that woman was super annoyed, judging from the appalled look upon her face. The other patrons were all politely snickering behind their napkins.

I don't think my sister and I set foot in there again for a while. But my father was quick to return with no shame. And he left us a legacy that was shared time and time again.

My Daddy Tribute: E is for Ev'ry Mountain

I came down with a nasty cold on Easter. I was already a bit behind in my postings, but that really put me over the edge. It has been easier to spend my Spring Break in bed, reading books and sleeping. But tonight I went over to The Man's house for some Easter leftovers and to watch movies. Like usual, we both dozed off during the movie. Unfortunately, to my body, that means I have had a nap and it will be a little while before I can really fall asleep.

I came home and started scrolling through Facebook and clicking on my Superpoints button, as I often do when I am unwinding for the evening. One of my Facebook friends likes to post a lot of videos from musicals on a nightly basis. All of a sudden, "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" was scrolling past on my wall. I had to stop and play it.

This was one of my father's favorite songs. Every time we watched The Sound of Music, he would crank this song as loud as we could stand it. God help you if you spoke. I appreciated it more and more as I grew older.

When we were planning his memorial service, his pastor asked us what his favorite songs were. I immediately said, "Climb Ev'ry Mountain." Now, obviously it isn't a hymn. The organist wasn't sure that he could find the music for it. I said it was okay and a long shot.

Flash forward to the service. I was doing a good job holding it all together. And then it was time for Communion. I was sitting in the front row and stood up with my uncle to go up for my turn. All of a sudden, the organ started belting out this song. I completely lost it and collapsed in the pew sobbing for a good five minutes after it was over. I am sobbing right now as I type this. And I probably always will get teary when I hear it.

In a way, my father has climbed another mountain. My original idea for the "E" posting was going to be about Easter. That morning, I woke up ridiculously early. I think I was nervous about spending the day with The Man's family again. I tried to go back to sleep and did doze off for a little bit. All of a sudden, a loud voice started yelling, "Hallelujah! He has risen!" But instead of seeing Jesus, I had a vision of my father sitting up in Heaven next to God. For the first time since he died in June, I felt like he had truly made his way up to Heaven. Some people may think I am crazy, and I don't care. I know my father has visited me since he died. He held me in his arms when I started phoning family members that night. He has stroked my hair and wrapped his arms around me when I have had tough nights crying or feeling sick. And I had a vision of him in my mother's hospital room when she had a heart attack last month. I think he stayed behind to make sure all of us were going to be okay. He wanted to keep pushing us up those mountains and across those streams. Now he knows we will persevere even though he isn't here, so he can finally rest in peace.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Daddy Tribute: D is for Daddy

Any man can become a father. But it takes a special man to become a daddy. My father was one of those special ones.

It took my parents a few years to get me. But finally I arrived. A Daddy's Girl was born. I have so many pictures of the two of us playing together. I have heard many stories of him taking care of me. I lived to spend time with my dad.

  • He taught me how to plant flowers in the garden, which was one of his passions.
  • He let me ride in the truck to go on some of his furniture deliveries. Both of us kids would tag along, but only my sister was truly of any assistance on those excursions.
  • He taught me cursive when I was five years old, because I wanted to write like big people.
  • He made up games for me to play with him.
  • He let me sit on his hip while he was sprawled on his side on the floor watching TV. 
  • He accompanied me on trips to France and Switzerland and helped me connect with our family history.
  • He taught me how to drive his big boat of a car.
  • He taught me to love art.
  • He would compliment my art techniques, even if he despised the painting and would always be honest about it.
  • He taunted me with his classic rock collection on vinyl and stories of meeting Jefferson Airplane and Miles Davis.
  • He let me listen to my music in the car.
  • He helped me purchase my favorite music and allowed me to host those big NKOTB pay-per-view parties.
  • He helped me heal from numerous broken hearts.
  • He bought me books to read.
  • He found Montessori school for me when I was 3, to enrich my education and to embrace my gifts.
  • He let me learn tough life lessons for myself, but never allowed me to do something truly stupid.
  • He was proud of every little accomplishment.
  • He taught me how to laugh and to find the humor in life.
  • He helped feed my Peanuts obsession.
  • He would tell me I looked pretty and he was always sincere.
  • He took us on drives through the countryside, teaching us to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
  • He let me call him at all hours of the night, to talk about any subject.
  • He let me gush over my latest obsessions and would take the time to learn more about them.
  • He would mimic my interests and let them become his own. And he would teach me about his, so that I could make his my own.
  • He always reassured me that everything would be okay, no matter how rough the road became.
  • He refused to lie to me.
  • He embraced the nuances and quirks that make me who I am.
  • He loved me unconditionally.
  • He still takes care of me, even from beyond the grave.

Last year, for this A to Z challenge, I posted a tribute to my father on my new Alzheimer's blog. I remember when I went home a couple of weeks later, I found it printed out next to his computer. I was honored that he was so touched by it. Looking back, it was almost like a premonition that he would soon be gone. You can read it here.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Spring Break Curse

I am already a little behind on my A to Z Challenge posts. Such is the curse of being a full-time teacher who went nuts and entered 8 blogs without scheduling posts in advance! Lol. I also had a friend come into town, whom I haven't seen in 16 years. And I'm just tired. It happens. But I just needed to get this out of my system, so here is an interruption.

Today is my first full day of Spring Break. Once upon a time this meant a week of fun and relaxation. This year, I am having a bit of a hard time on this first morning. While the dates are not exact, the timing is still a big anniversary. See, the Thursday before Spring Break last year was when my father was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Friday was the last time I spoke to him on the phone. And Saturday was when he went unconscious. The actual dates are still a week off, but knowing that my Spring Break is here again just makes me sad and it hurts. I should be going home. I should be preparing to spend time with family and friends "back West." But it isn't in the cards this year. And this begins the final two months that complete my first year without my father. It isn't going to be easy, but I know I can do it.

My boss jokingly banned me from going home for Spring Break a few years ago. I went home on a similar kind of break layout. We were off on Good Friday, through the week following Easter. Only that year, the Monday after Easter, my great uncle was moved to Hospice. I was the one who had to tell my grandmother that her little brother was dying. I spent that entire Spring Break visiting Hospice, bringing food and support to Uncle Carl's family. I got to know relatives I had never met before. I was grateful to finally spend some time with my great uncle, whom I never got to know well, due to circumstances out of my control. And my very being was forever changed. He died in the wee hours of the following Sunday morning. I had to take that Monday off so that I could drive back to New York. I was too upset to do so on Sunday. That day was hell in my classroom, because my assistant had already taken that day off as a travel day from her vacation.

Twice when I had preplanned trips home in the month of September, I had loved ones die. The one year, it was my mentor, Sister Anthonita Porta, who was the Montessori Guru of our time. She was like Maria Montessori reincarnate and had taught me so much in our years of interaction. The other time it was my grandmother. She died the morning that I was planning on going home, anyway, to go to the Michigan-Bowling Green game. So now, there is a bad running joke that I don't dare go home for breaks, because you never know who is going to die. At the same time, I say at least people are courteous enough to do it while I am already there, so I don't have to make a special trip?

(Remember, I must treat sad situations with an element of humor, even though it can seem distasteful at times. Otherwise, I would never make it through life!)

All of this sadness aside, I do plan to have some fun over break. The weather is chilly, yet nice outside. The sun is shining. I can finally work on cleaning out my yard. I want to start taking longer walks, as my leg continues to heal. I need to be back into full-blown hiking shape by the time summer hits! And because The Man and I are both broke as a joke, we are going to find some more free things to do in this city and nearby areas. It is always a good thing to do. And then I can write about some of them. I plan on lots of reading and writing, too, over this break.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Daddy Tribute: C is for Cooking

When I was a kid, I hated Wednesday nights. My mother had choir practice, which meant my sister and I had to depend on our father to make our dinner. The man could not even properly heat up a can of soup. Sometimes, if we begged and got lucky, he would take us out to McDonald's or something on the way to one of his meetings. Otherwise, we had to fulfill our Montessori upbringing and scrounge for ourselves.

As time went on, Dad somehow started to learn how to cook. I think it goes back to when he quit smoking. He had given up cigarettes and alcohol and his compulsive nature required a new sort of addiction. It became food. He read through cookbooks and printed of reams of recipes from the Internet. He watched all kinds of cooking shows. And then he started to experiment in his own kitchen.

My adult years of eating my father's cooking ended up being a great pleasure. He ended up being a better cook than my mother. He was always willing to experiment with new flavors and techniques. I remember a particularly awful phase, though, where he used so much garlic that the odor just oozed from his pores.

Family dinners suddenly turned into grand affairs. Sunday evenings ended up being mini dinner parties of us and some church friends. My boyfriend at the time and I loved going over to my parents' house to help cook a meal. We would all work on a different aspect of the meal. Then we would sit around the table for a couple of hours, eating and laughing. And then we would retire to the living room to watch stupid TV, laugh some more, and try some decadent desserts. Those were some very happy times for us.

I still find myself trying out new recipes and thinking, "Boy, Dad would sure like this one!" Or, I keep finding free cookbooks for diabetics on Amazon for my Kindle apps and think that I need to get them for him. I pause. I think of him laughing at the dinner table. And then I move on, planning something new for me to try with my friends and family in his honor.

Monday, April 2, 2012

My Daddy Tribute: B is for Books

I don't remember my father reading much more than the newspaper when I was a kid. But as he got older, he started to pay more attention to books. He tried out a variety of books that he could find for bargain prices. He read mysteries and classics. He had a fondness for current affairs and always wanted me to read and debate the books. His favorites ended up being the antique books that belonged to my great-grandmother, his grandmother.

Grandma Belle loved to collect books and to go to book clubs. She had numerous first editions. And typical of that time period, she removed the dustjackets and glued the synopsis inside the front cover. That actually devalues the books as far as money is concerned. But having the book collection of your grandmother is priceless.

My grandmother, Dad's mom, kept many of the books that belonged to her mother. Others went to her brother, my great uncle. As Grandma worked on downsizing her belongings, Dad would take more and more of Grandma Belle's books. It was his goal to read through all of them. He was fascinated by the historical look at life and the kinds of literature that attracted people all of those decades ago. He admired the simplicity of the books. The stories were not simple - many were quite complex. They didn't require a lot of gore and sex, though, to become popular.

One of the hardest things for me to do as we were cleaning out my parents' house was to say goodbye to those books. There was something magical about holding a book that had also been held by my father, my grandmother and my great-grandmother. There were just too many of them. Instead, I played pick and choose. For example, I saved all of the Daphne du Maurier books, as she is one of my favorite authors. I saved a couple of my father's collections, such as his gardening series, because he specifically told me I was to inherit them some day.

As my father lay unconscious in the hospital, I tried to stimulate his brain as much as I could. I spent a lot of time reading to him. I read short stories by Kurt Vonnegut. I summarized Jon Krakauer. And we were working our way through Jane Eyre when he passed away. I desperately wanted to read him Rebecca by du Maurier, but didn't have a copy with me. And it seemed to be impossible at the time to locate an affordable copy for my Kindle app.

To this day, I still find myself reaching for the phone to call Dad about a new book I have read. I have an addiction to reading books like alcoholics to do their booze. I learned how to read when I was two, and my nose has been buried in books ever since. I even still want to call my grandmother, to tell her about a new mystery that I think she may like. I know that I can't share them via phone, but I know they are watching from above and enjoying the stories with me.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Daddy Tribute: A is for Artist

I cannot think of my father without thinking about art. He may not have been a world famous artist, but he was a damn good painter. He demonstrated his talent at a young age and worked on honing it through numerous classes at the art museum and more. Before I was born, he spent a lot of time with a paintbrush in his hands. Most of his pictures were landscapes, primarily featuring trees. He also spent a lot of time creating abstract paintings, filled with color. I grew up with his artwork hanging on the walls of our home, in my own personal museum. My sister and I each also had his artwork hanging in our bedrooms. When I was in college, I had to write a paper on a painting that moved me. I chose one of his.

My father used his art to woo my mother. He hated even numbers and symmetrical shapes, but used symmetry to create an abstract painting for her. It was blue, which was their shared favorite color. She would get all sentimental every time she looked at it. It now hangs in her room at the nursing home. It has an air of familiarity for her, even if she doesn't really remember him anymore.

This rainbow abstract painting is one that always hung in my parents' living room. A close family friend admired it for years and kept offering him money for it. My father was not good at giving up his paintings. I think they were truly a part of him. After he died, we sent it to her as a gift. This is a picture of it in its new home. Look at how the ball also reflects its colors.

Dad always told us that he never painted people. He didn't think he was any good at it. But when we were cleaning out the storage unit after he passed away, we came upon this treasure:

I know I am prejudiced, but I think this is pretty damn good! The worst thing was that it had gotten wet somehow. Soon after I took this picture, the bottom started to buckle and crumble. There was no way to save it and it has now ended up in a landfill somewhere. The thought of that makes me ill, but what else could we do?

Other works are either on display or being stored at various people's homes all over. Now members of his family finally have pieces of his work. I think that would make him happy. I am still working on collecting photos of all of them.

I know that I will never have the same kind of talent that my father did. And I am okay with that. But I always think of him whenever I see one of his works, or when I am showing my students how to use a paintbrush.