One of my first memories of my Dad is of him yelling at me after I picked up a red hot bolt while trying to “help” sweep up his garage. He owned a Shell gas and service station in our small town and he had just gotten finished working on a car. Of course I screamed scaring him half to death. I would like to tell you he ran over and cradled me in his arms, but that would be to Leave It to Beaver-ish. I remember the smell of his work clothes, a combo of grease and gasoline, which I still love to this day. He plastered thick jelly onto my burn and continually asked me what the heck I was thinking? He wasn’t exactly a patient man.
We laugh about it now.
At 35 he had a heart attack which resulted in a triple bypass. He had a scar that ran from his throat to his ankle and every time I saw it I was reminded of how easily he could be taken from us.
The surgeon told my Mom the bypass could give him a maximum of 10 years. A secret she kept to herself until he died 23 years later, four months after I was married. I can’t imagine the stress she was under counting down the years with two young girls to care for.
My Dad taught me how to ride a lawn mower and a mini bike both of which I always somehow jammed into the neighbours chain link fence. I can still picture him coming out the back door shaking his head. Or through the snow on the coldest days because I stalled the Ski-doo half way across the field.
Yes, maybe there was a reason he was impatient…
Lucky for me I got three traits from him; my patience, deep forehead wrinkles and a freakishly long back with a hint of a butt attached.
He was honest, humble, hardworking and kind. Everything a straight up man should be. He had the kindest eyes I’ve ever known and the most genuine smile. He whistled when he did chores, watched The Guiding Light (he’s gone now so I can tell you), ate chicken wings against doctors orders, loved Archie Bunker, stole smokes behind the shed and spent many hours in his “workshop” where he made tables, shelves and drank beer with his BFF.
Everyone in town knew him and liked him. He made no enemies.
He also snored like a freight train, wiggled his foot back and forth the entire time he watched TV and crunched chips incredibly loud. He built a pontoon boat with my uncle that almost sunk half way across the river. He smelled like Icy Hot, chewed Rolaids, always had dirt under his nails, took forever to BBQ anything, swore like a sailor when he thought I couldn’t hear, taught me how to whittle with a pocket knife, probably wished I was a boy and said he hated the dog but secretly loved him.
He hardly ever raised his voice but when he did shit was about to get real and whatever it was my sister or I had done you could be sure would never happen again.
He was an astounding Grandfather and had all the time in the world for my sister’s kids. Suddenly patience wasn’t an issue. I wish he could’ve met mine. What an incredible loss for them.
The moment my son was born I saw my Dad in his eyes. Now, when I watch him play ball and he sits all hunched over on the bench, the way I’ve seen my Dad sit a million times, I feel him there.
It’s been 13 years since I held his hand when he lost his last battle and I’m grateful to have been there, to have been able to say my goodbyes, to have had the extra years I didn’t know was borrowed time. What an incredible gift.
When we made the procession from church to cemetery, bells tolled and policemen came out of the station to salute him in the street as his body was driven past. I’ll never forget it.
My Dad was a man of honour, a master of duck tape, a trusted friend, and an incredible soul with a stubborn streak. No, he wasn’t perfect.
But I miss him every damn day.