Posts Tagged ‘dad’

Father’s Day is almost here. I’ve gotten in the habit of going to my local Hallmark store and perusing the cards. I like to send cards now — who knew? There are certain times of the year though that the majority of the cards available aren’t available for me to choose… Father’s Day being one. It never fails that every time I’ve entered the card section of any store in the last two weeks, I automatically think about getting a Father’s Day card — this will be the third Father’s Day without my dad, but the instinct remains — the need to buy him the perfect card.

When I was 27, I was pregnant with my oldest child, I had been married for five years, I had a full-time job, I had purchased my first car, I was finishing up graduate school — by most standards, I was a full-fledged adult. Of course that was to everyone except my father. I was his youngest — I’m sure I never grew up in his mind.

It was March, close to spring break. The weather is always tricky in Tennessee during the month of March — it can be beautiful and 70 degrees or scary with relentless tornados or cold with blowing snow, all in the same week. This particular week it was an unexpected snow — a large unexpected snow. I remember it very well. I was sitting in my night class as it began to snow. I was very pregnant… about 7 weeks from delivering. We kept glancing out the window and back to the professor in hopes that she would cut the three-hour class a little short so we could all start home — no such luck. The class ended at 8pm on the dot and we all just stood looking out the window, knowing it was bad and our drives would be unpleasant. At the time, I lived about 45 minutes away from the university. I headed out in to the snow and began my journey — it was 8:13pm.

I spent the first hour of my drive weaving through the city streets trying to get to the interstate. I wondered who all would be calling my house to check on me as word would soon spread that I was not home yet. Around 10pm, I began to get scared and fatigued of driving so slow — it was slippery and wrecked cars lined the interstate. My little car was losing traction often but I was one of the only cars still making forward progress, I stayed near the center of the interstate. Again I began to worry about who all was worrying about me. I knew my father would be a nervous wreck. I found an exit and decided to risk getting off the interstate to find a pay phone (yes, before cell phones infiltrated my life). As soon as I veered off my steady center path, my car spun around in a complete circle. Luckily I ended up facing the right way and kept going without hesitation. The pay phone was just ahead.

I made my calls, of course the one to my father was on the top of the list, to tell everyone I was okay and would get home eventually… I left out the part about my car spinning in a complete circle and how I thought I was going into labor from holding on to the steering wheel with such force. At 10:35pm I headed back for the interstate. I made my way to the very center of the lanes and carried on. I finally arrived at my apartment at 1:37am. Tired. In pain. Frustrated. I called my father immediately so he could finally go to sleep and stop his pacing.

The snow melted within a few days and I went to visit my parents. As soon as I arrived, my father left in my car without explanation. I visited for a bit with my mother and we wondered where daddy went. A few hours had passed when he returned with my car — four brand new tires attached. It was what he could do to make me safe when I wasn’t with him — he always wanted to do for me, for all of us. He also had several brochures for cell phones and made me swear I would get one the next day — I did, my first call was to him.

I thought about that snowy drive home so many years ago as I went to the Hallmark store to pick up a few cards. I looked at all the Father’s Day cards in the store and instinctually thought about picking one up for my dad. He loved the funny ones, he loved to laugh. But more than anything, he loved to do for others — kindness and consideration belonged to him. So this Father’s Day, I might have picked up a card… a funny one. And maybe, this Father’s Day, I’ll look at it and I’ll read it and I’ll laugh… and I’ll remember those new tires.

Image from Kind Over Matter

Read Full Post »

I think we, as normal thinking humans, have a distinct flight or fight mechanism. There are times we find ourselves in situations when we are quickly forced to make decisions to stay and work it out or run far away. I was in one of those situations recently.

I made plans to visit my best friend in Montana for the weekend (she reminded me several times that I had never visited her  — in 20 years) — it had been over 21 years since I had been on an airplane. My 19-year-old self remembered the airplane I was on back then as being large and roomy and pleasant. My present day self walked out to the airplane sitting on the tarmac, climbed the wobbly steps, negotiated the narrow aisle and realized that this plane was none of those things. My mind immediately raced — I was walking to my seat, my outward appearance showed no signs of the horrific screaming I was doing in my mind. I sat down and stowed my bag neatly under the seat in front of me. I felt crowded and cramped… my breathing constricted and I was alone… very alone in this over-crowded, under spaced plane. In my mind, I bolted for the door. In my mind, I jumped out of my seat and screamed profanities until I was escorted off the plane. In my mind…I was fleeing.

My body however, was winning the battle and staying to fight. My hands were buckling the seat belt. My mouth was saying hello to the man next to me. My eyes were looking out the window to the vast openness that was just out of my reach. The stewardess closed and locked the plane door. The captain accelerated. The plane lifted off. My eyes closed…faking sleep. My breathing was deep. My mind was grasping the hands of friends. Eventually, I could look out the window and see the Rocky Mountains. Eventually, I wasn’t so scared. Eventually, the plane landed.

I remember when my father become very ill. He had been taking chemo and was weak, his immune system was depleted, he had been admitted to the local hospital but they had run out of options. My mother called to tell me he was being flown by life-flight to a hospital in Nashville and I needed to get there as soon as possible. I remember having a moment of flight or fight on my way to the hospital — I stopped to wash my car.

I arrived at the hospital at the same time as the helicopter. I walked in to the room with my dad — I held his hand. And there I stayed for the next 36 hours — sitting by his bed, holding his hand. My mind wanting to flee but my body forcing me to stay. I remember wanting to hear my dad tell me about the helicopter ride — I wanted him to get better long enough to hear that story.

Within a few very stressful days, my dad was feeling better. We talked about that helicopter ride. He told me of how it seemed like a dream, he was semi-conscious. He said he remembered being strapped to the board and being loaded into the helicopter. I asked him if he was scared — did he want to run away. His reply was “hell no”. He said he was just sorry that he waited until his life was nearing its end to do something so exciting. He said he was mad about being strapped to a board and not being able to see the view. The flight or fight mode did not kick in for my dad at that moment when he was co close to death. He wanted to enjoy that helicopter ride. He did enjoy that helicopter ride.

I thought about that ride of my dad’s as my final plane was coming in for a landing last night. The city was beautifully lit. I could recognize the streets. I could see the river. I was calm and breathing and alive. I didn’t need to take flight — I was able to stay for the fight. Sometimes, I think as normal human beings, we should stay for the fight.

A hand to hold from my friend Katherine James. As you can see, it’s well-worn already.

Read Full Post »

I had trouble sleeping last night. Not all together unusual. Many things crossing my thoughts that I need to get done — sometimes lists can burden you. Then, in the middle of trying to sleep and contemplating things, my youngest daughter slipped quietly into my room with her pillow and blankie. I’ve never been one to resist the company of my kids so in she plopped. We began an exhausting journey from bathroom to bed to bathroom to bed — her tummy hurt and she knew she needed to throw-up. (I wasn’t really convinced, especially by the sixth unsuccessful trip from bed to bathroom.)

She finally proved me wrong (yes, thankfully on a trip to the bathroom and not to the bed). Her face immediately was restored to the right color, her smile came back, she relaxed on her pillow and she drifted off — peacefully (still now, beside me with the glow of the keyboard on her cherub-like face). I settled in as well, it’s always a relief when your kids are finally content. My thoughts drifted off to my youth and my dad and how I loved to go fishing with him.

The town I grew up in was surrounded by three beautiful lakes. Two were close enough to my house that I could actually ride my bike to them with friends, and did on many hot summer days. My dad always had fishing poles and fishing lures and fishing stories — although, I don’t think he was actually good at it. It’s hard to tell with fishing. I liked to gage my fishing experience by how often I got to re-load my hook with a minnow or a worm and cast it out (that was the funnest part, not the waiting for a fish). We would stand on the shore for hours, drinking coke from glass bottles (you know, the small ones that stayed ice-cold until the last sip) and eating bar-b-que fritos.

Like most good fishermen, my dad bought a boat. Even when he first bought it, the boat was already old and worn. But it was his — his boat. He put it up on some cinder blocks in our back yard and started the maintenance of it that would last over 30 years. The motor would break — up on the cinder blocks it would go. It leaked — up on the cinder blocks it would go. The windshield was cracked — up on the cinder blocks it would go. At one point, he removed the motor all together and affixed it to a wood frame then submerged it in a ginormous trash can filled with water (I need to google to see if this is actually a recommended way to fix a boat motor or not — my dad was an engineer, sometimes they get off track).

The trips to the lake to go fishing became fewer and fewer as he spent more and more time “fixing” the boat. I think he must have forgotten somewhere along the way, that we didn’t need a boat to fish. We just needed some shore and some bar-b-que fritos. Eventually, I stopped asking to go fishing and the running joke in the family became that boat (at one point, there was a tree growing up from the drivers seat — a tree). He couldn’t let go of the boat.

“It might work one day”, he would say, “and then our fishing trips could resume.”

He eventually gave the boat away to someone he thought would finally fix it up. That was only a few months before he passed away from lung cancer. He had a hard time letting go of the boat. For him, the boat was a project — not a catalyst for fishing.

I don’t need a boat to go fishing with my dad — I went last night, as my daughter slept beside me.

And if you’re wondering, apparently my father wasn’t the only one who used their engineering skills for things other than rockets!

Enjoy this picture!

Read Full Post »