It’s a bittersweet Father’s Day for me. Bitter because it’s the first without my Pa, and sweet because it’s my husband’s first. He’s a brand new papa bear. And such a good one. I always say I’m so lucky to have him, which I sincerely believe. He is a fantastic dad. But how unfortunate is the idea of having to be lucky to have a quality dad for your children? A dad that wants to spend time with their little one, wants to help. GETS UP AT NIGHT. I wish I saw more of a reflection of my husband in the general population. I mean of course nobody is perfect, but he does try very hard to share the load. Thankfully because it can get quite heavy. I honestly feel like we are raising our beautiful, strong willed daughter as a team. Thank goodness because she is a pistol. Shocking, I know. You should see the way she looks at him. She is daddy’s little girl through and through and I love it so much. The bond they have is so strong and growing. It’s also mega attractive… Makes me think of when I used to stare at dads playing with their kids in the pool when I was a lifeguard in high school. I’m a creep. But this idea of truly co-parenting really is pretty new to society. Hence the me being lucky part… I’m so thankful for him this Father’s Day and every Father’s Day to come. He’s a true gem. It’s such an outdated concept to think the mother is going to do all of the child rearing. I’m not sure what I would do if he were a “I bring home the bacon, you take care of the kids” type of dude. Ugh. I have interests outside of motherhood that I like to pursue, just as dads have interests such as golf or other games or hobbies. “Mom” doesn’t have to be my only identity. I love raising my baby girl but I need outlets too. The hubs is good at giving me mental health breaks and time to do me. I’m so grateful. So today we will celebrate him and the other dads like him. I know you’re out there. You da real MVPs.
My father’s death is still a fresh wound and I knew Father’s Day would be hard this year. A good family friend summed up the idea of my dad pretty well when she said, “he was like your favorite TV dad.” He was generous, moral and true, sooo fun loving and honestly just an easy-going, cool type of dude. He loved draft beers and jogging on college campuses. He lived for helping others. He derived joy from the simple things in life. Something others have to try to accomplish. It came natural to him. Dad never wanted any gifts, his family being together was enough for him. If anything maybe a restaurant ticket (aka gift card, lol). He was adorable like that. He loved actual cards though. No matter the occasion we could always depend on a heart felt card from dad. I share the same fondness for written sentiments. It made me happy to jot down all of the ways he made me proud to be his daughter. Looking back I hope I wrote enough. I really hope he knew how special he was. Wish I could write one more letter, or fill out one more card. I would tell him he did a great job raising us. That I see so much of him in myself. And my daughter. Except for his patience…lol. It breaks my heart that my baby won’t directly know the best Pap in the land.
My sisters and I lived with my dad when my parents divorced. I was young, in kindergarten I believe. They got back together when I was entering high school. Crazy, I know. But to think, he raised 3 girls and still taught and coached. He always said that’s why he lost his hair, lol. Once we went on summer vacation and he let all three of us bring a friend. Myrtle Beach or Florida were the usual destinations, this particular vacay was in Myrtle Beach. But imagine 6 girls ranging in age from junior high to high school and him. And of course we drove. Seriously, I’m not sure I would even want to do that! But Dad did. I’m pretty sure he called the police because my sisters and their friends were out so late he thought they had been taken. He rarely lost his temper so a stern lecture likely followed. He was such a counselor. Through and through. On normal days he had help from my mom of course. They had a very amiable relationship post divorce, at least they presented it that way. I’m very thankful to them for that. Makes sense since they got back together, but I’m sure it was rough. Especially since my mom remarried for awhile. Not dad though, he never got serious with anyone really. “He was one of those rare men who are capable of being fully in love only once in their lives.”- Pat Conroy, Prince of Tides. That quote is highlighted in my copy of that book. It’s such an fitting quote for him. His love for my mother was unwavering. Inspiring, really. I’ll never forget way he loved her. I know a lot of people idolize their parents but he was the closest thing to a saint I’ll ever know. I’m beginning to realize he’s my moral compass.
So you see why I have high expectations for the role of a father. My dad set the emotional bar high for a male. He had unmatched emotional intelligence for a man (any man I’ve met), an anomaly really. In my life he was compassionate, caring, a GREAT listener. He always suspended judgement. Something that is quite hard to do truly. Odd because his dad was actually kinda the exact opposite. I didn’t know my Pap on my dad’s side too well. He died when I was pretty young. But I knew enough about him to see that my dad took after his mom, my Grandma. Not him. His eyes weren’t as kind. Smile wasn’t as warm. I guess he never went to any of my dad’s football or basketball games growing up. My dad was quite the athlete, scoring a full scholarship to several schools for football. He chose Pitt. Because duh. It’s Dad and Pittsburgh is life. But that’s something. Never went to his games. Sports were always a huge part of my dad’s life. He never missed any of ours (mine or my two older sisters) and half the time he was the coach. However, I should point out that times were different when my dad was young. His family didn’t have a car. They didn’t need one I guess. Pap’s bar was right down the street. Ok…that was a bit of a jab. Again, I didn’t know Pap too well and times were different. My dad always said he was tougher on his older brother. Pap worked long hours at the steel mill and from what I can remember headed to the tavern in the evenings. It’s just astonishing to me how my dad fathered us given his dad’s parenting style (My Grandma Washinko, his mother, was an entirely different story). My father never spoke poorly of his dad though. Ever. I don’t want to give that impression. He was that kind of man. And he will forever genuinely be THAT kind of man.
I remember Coach Dad inviting more than a couple girls from the team to our house weekly, if not daily for some supper before practice. They lived far enough away to not want to travel home in between school and practice. We were in no way rich but making extra food and helping people out was a deep part of who my dad was. Even if that kindness wasn’t reciprocated or appreciated. It didn’t matter. He did it anyway. He always told me to do things without expecting things in return. I think of those words often. Sometimes it is easier said than done. But we do our best right? He was so supportive of us. You know, he wrote in every single card I can remember getting that he knew I would do something special with my life. I always hoped I wouldn’t let him down. Once I became a teacher he made it a point to tell me that was such a special thing. Helping others, being a mentor to those who need one, he considered that special. I always thought he meant something bigger. Maybe he did, but he made me feel like helping others was special enough, that I had fulfilled that expectation.
Fortunately for me, as I grow older I see more and more similarities between my father and my husband. They are very different people yet they’re not. I’m not sure how to explain it. Maybe it is because my husband and I were basically raised the same and I think our parents were basically raised the same. Ohio River Valley in da hizzouse!
My sisters and I wrote Dad a letter after he passed. I’ve included it below. I know I’ve said it so much but I just hope he knew what he meant to people.
I hope I told you enough how much I love you and how special you are. How I can’t wait to teach Lyla how to play “Tree Tag” or “Touch the Couch”. How I remember you running the “Bedtime Train” and how we would all sing and jump on. If we didn’t we became a “sack of potatoes” and you would throw us over your back as we giggled the whole way to bed. You always promised me that you wouldn’t fall asleep until I did. And you left the hall light on while you sang me Beatle songs and made up lullabys. Every night. You were so patient. Now that I have my own child, I sing her those same songs. Sometimes I get annoyed as she stares at me instead of sleeping but I think, Dad would have just sang another verse. You were such a good dad.
I wrote you a poem, I wish I could read it to you. I wrote it at your bedside during the “transition” through tear saturated eyes. I tried to be strong for you but watching this was the hardest thing I’ve ever did. Something I will NEVER forget. Just as I’ll never forget your kindness, your optimism, and your love.
Because of you Dad
Because of you Dad, I know to trust my intuition and go with my gut
Because of you I know a window opens when a door is shut
Because of you, I know how to be respectful and show compassion
You, who lived to help others, it was your passion
I’ve learned you have to be the change you want to see
To live as if you already are who you want to be
Because of you Dad I know how important it is to have faith
To stand strong and fight through what you think you can’t take
I’ll never forget all of the lessons I’ve learned
To treat everyone with kindness, and how trust is to be earned
Because of you Dad, I know what a father should be
You put us on a pedestal, how lucky are we?
We will always remember your smiling eyes
And how you stayed so positive during the demise
You are truly the best man I’ll ever know
And it hurts so bad to have to let go
But, because of you Dad, I know you are in a better place
You’re with your family in a safe and warm space
Please know you will always be with us
In our hearts you’ll stay, in this just trust
So it’s goodbye for now but not forever
All of our great memories I will always treasure
I love you Dad, Rest In Peace. I’ll talk to you soon,