Dear Dad

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Dear Dad,

I remember fishing with you on piers and docks – never on a boat, because you couldn’t be on the water anymore after shipping out to Korea while serving our country. (I still bait my own hooks but still refuse to take the fish off when I catch them.)

I remember the meatloaf and ketchup sandwich you made me in third grade when mom was sick and you had to pinch hit. The look of horror on my classmates’ faces as they caught a glimpse of the ketchup soaked white bread. (There were to be no trades that day. 🙂 )

I remember the story of how you ran away from home at 13 to be a cowboy – traveling by bus from Chicago to Wyoming, with nothing more than the clothes on your back, sneakers, and a friend. How you had to work all summer there to earn enough money to come home. (I thought you were the strongest person in the whole wide world. Still do.)

I remember having to be quiet during the day in summertime because you’d worked nights, sometimes double shifts. (You were so proud that you never took a sick day.) I remember touring the mill where you worked and feeling sad that you had to work in such a hot, dirty place. How sad you were when you had to lay one of your workers off. The notes you left on the kitchen table every morning before you left for work, always short, always written in all capital letters, always telling us you loved us and to have a good day. (I still look for a hard-working man who puts his family first.)

I remember the flowers you gave to both Mom and me for Valentine’s Day. The way you never let me make it out of the house in wrinkled pants or skirts (I still don’t iron.) The look on your face when the first boy came to the door to take me out, sporting a mohawk, hoop earring and parachute pants. (LOL!!!)

I remember the smell of your cigars and scotch. The way you floated across the dance floor with mom, dressed up, stepping gracefully through your carefully rehearsed ballroom steps. I remember the sheer panic when, at a wedding, you would point one finger at me on the sidelines and beckon me to dance with you. I still remember the box step (but I only do it with you at weddings when you make me).

The way you always let me hang out in the garage with you and watch you work fixing every ‘damn’ thing that broke. 🙂  (I still love a man who can fix things.)

I remember watching Clint Eastwood movies with you. How you always made popcorn drowning in butter. (I still think you are Clint Eastwood.) That your nickname for me was Charlie. (I still don’t know why “Charlie,” but I loved it because it came from you.)

I remember the sweet taste of the graham cracker cookies drizzled in chocolate that you brought home from Goldblatt’s in a little white paper bag on pay day. And how sometimes it was a Hershey’s Chocolate Bar or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. (The only two chocolate candies that I ever eat to this day.)

I remember you tucking me in at night. Reading me stories. Making me laugh. (I still love a man who can make me laugh.)

I remember how you looked driving the car in the summer, window rolled down, elbow on the sill, hand on the window frame, steering with your other hand. (I thought you could do anything.)

How your eyes lit up when you got together with your youngest brother and the two of you started telling stories, joking, laughing. (I never saw you look laugh like that with anyone but him.)

I remember taking you to my first workplace, a ‘big’ agency in Chicago and the look on your face as you saw what your investment in my college education had enabled me to do – even though you weren’t exactly sure what I did. And still don’t. 🙂 But that’s okay because I am doing it. (Thank you so much, Dad.)

I remember when Mom was diagnosed with cancer and you knelt before her in a chair and cried, telling her you wished you could take this from her. I remember the day the call came six months later, the hospital telling us to come quickly, Mom had taken a turn for the worse. The look on your face as you asked me what that meant.

I remember how you sat, day after day, eight hours a day, in the nursing home with your second wife, sick with Alzhiemers. (I thought that only happened in movies.)

I remember you driving us to lunch recently and you took your eyes off the road for a second and almost swerved into oncoming traffic, but corrected just in time. You looked at me, raised your eyebrows and said, “I like to live dangerously.” We both laughed. (I’m scared for you, Dad.)

I remember how just recently at a family party, I asked if you wanted me to get you a chair and you put one 83-year-old hand on my shoulder and said, I can get my own chair. And you did.

I remember everything, Dad. I love you.

Happy Father’s Day.

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