One More Little Good-Bye

June 14, 2019

At the harness races--one of my favorite photos of us

Seven and a half months ago, my father died. This year, on Father’s Day, for the first time, I won’t have a father.

This feels strange. Something I have always had, and taken for granted, is missing. The months since his death have been filled with little goodbyes. Realizations that I won’t be able to share certain things with him, and vice versa. For example, when it was time to plant tomatoes this year, I decided not to—not only did I not feel up to battling the bugs and the squirrels for the fruit, gardening was something my dad and I liked to talk about—his tiny backyard plot produced tomatoes and cucumbers galore. We liked to compare harvests (he always had more) and compare what we had planted.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad. Coming to terms with losing a parent isn’t easy, even when you’re all grown up and have a child of your own. I decided to jot down some memories and thoughts about him in his honor this Father’s Day.

Even though my dad had his flaws (as we all do), he was a loving and kind man. My dad loved animals, especially cats. In addition to gardening, he was an excellent golfer, and loved fishing, and going to the horse races. He was in the Navy and served during the Korean War. He was a Baptist, and loved his church.

At his best, he was charming and charismatic, full of zest, humor, and mischief. He worked hard all his life—at 84, until his last illness, he still worked part time doing marketing for a Servpro franchise.

He was born and grew up in Virginia, moving to California as a young man looking for work.

He was extremely lucky, winning often at the horse races or casino, even finding money lying on the ground!

He loved his grandson, my son Nick, deeply. Dad smoked for many years, and after trying unsuccessfully to quit several times, stopped cold turkey when he saw his toddler grandson imitating him smoking.

Dad and Nick

I always asked him to make his special salad when I came to visit. I technically know how to make it myself, but it’s not the same. But perhaps I will try making it in his honor now and then, trying to perfect what he did so well.

The chef at work

My parents divorced when I was three, and I didn’t have much contact with my dad in my earliest years. The circumstances of my parents’ divorce were unusual, and without going into detail, let’s just say it was no one’s fault. I know it was devastating to him when my mom and I left, and I don’t think he ever quite got over it. It shadowed our relationship for years. Once I was old enough to stay with him, I spent part of summer vacation at his house, and either Christmas or Thanksgiving break. My stepmother had always wanted a daughter, and she embraced me as her own immediately. At the time of his death, they had been married 42 years.

At times, my dad and I hurt each other deeply in ways that only family can, each of us making mistakes, saying the wrong thing, convinced the other person was wrong or just did not understand. Now that I’m a parent, I better understand some of our exchanges. I regret that we didn’t have the lifelong closeness I’ve observed in other fathers and daughters. Over the years, I’ve grieved for what was denied us, but now grieve for what we did have that is now lost. Sometimes it hits me anew that he’s gone, taking me by painful surprise.

Now I can choose to remember the fun we had , letting go the old hurts. He did the best he knew how, and so did I, and sometimes we came up short. There was never any doubt that we loved each other, fiercely.

He always called me his favorite daughter (I’m his ONLY daughter), so last Father’s Day, I sent him a sweatshirt with the words, “My favorite daughter gave me this shirt” printed on the chest. He loved it, and since he was always cold (even when the thermostat said 85), he wore it proudly.

I have a voice mail on my phone—my dad’s last message to me from April 2018 when I was getting ready to come to California. He sounds excited about the upcoming visit. I can’t quite get my head around the fact that there will be no more visits, and that when I said good-bye to him last year, it was the final time I’d see him in person.

Last visit

We spoke on the phone many times after that, and I sent him a message on his 84th birthday, which he celebrated while I was in France last October. Only a few days after I returned home he was gone. I knew his health had been failing, but I thought we would have more time. I guess we all think that—or hope that—about the people we love.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I miss you.

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  1. Kathy, I am very moved by your writing about your father. I relate to so much of what you wrote. Grieving is filled with tenderness, happiness, deep sadness, regrets, contentment...I'm happy for you that above all, you shared love with your dad. I know how hard death of family is. I miss my father everyday, he died 21 years ago now...Thank you for your writing, for sharing...Rita

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments, Rita. You've summed up the grieving process very well. I guess we never get over missing those we love who have passed on.

  2. Earlier this week, I was thinking about Father’s Day and how, when it does not fall on my birthday, it has become just another reminder of how much I miss my dad. Then I had the realization that all those times I gave my dad a Father’s Day card, it must have reminded him of his loss. His dad died when my dad was (maybe) 17. My dad went to Korea, moved to California, divorced, went to college, remarried, had a career and family — all without the support or encouragement of his own father. Every single Father’s Day for him, as a father, was a reminder of what he had lost, as a son.

    I wish I had a happier thought or memory to share. That just happens to be where I am this Father’s Day.

    I am so sorry for your loss. This year of firsts is a ritual that, frankly, just sucks.

    Love you. xoxo

    1. Hey, Miss P--Thank you for your comments. So good to hear from you, regardless of the situation. Yes, getting used to the new normal does suck. I hope it gets better in time for both of us. Hugs to you, my dear friend.

  3. Hi sweety, so sorry to hear about your Dad. My Dad is still around, drives me nuts sometimes (perhaps we're a bit too much alike?) and you are a wonderful reminder to treasure each day. Sheryl

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Sheryl. My dad used to drive me nuts sometimes, too--but I still miss him :). Enjoy the time you have!

  4. Dear Kathy I certainly understand friend your loss - we both must have been thinking of our beloved fathers yesterday - Take care and thank you for writing something so lovely to share. Hugs!

    1. You're welcome, Debbie. They'll always have a place in our hearts.