Had Facebook existed back on July 8, 1973, that would have been my “status,” alerting my virtual community to the fact that my father had died suddenly at the age of 52. Since social media and instantaneous communication technology did not exist then, word of mouth was the more difficult method for communicating such important information.
One of my memories of that fateful day was of two 13-year-old friends coming to the door one steamy Sunday morning.
“Want to come out?” they said. My answer was a blunt and stoic: “I can’t … my dad just died.” They then quietly walked away – confused, embarrassed, not knowing what to say, so really saying nothing.
On Father’s Day this year, my daughter asked me if I still missed my dad. Forty years have passed, but my answer is still an automatic and heartfelt “yes.” While I came to terms with his passing so many years ago, my feelings today are less sad but more nostalgic – for a father-daughter relationship that was unfortunately frozen in time.
I have now lived longer than he did. Forty years of experiences, relationships and life markers have occurred without him. My husband never met him. He’s a mystery to his five grandchildren, who have never known their grandmother as anyone’s wife. Most of my current friends couldn’t identify him in a picture. There are only a couple of people in my life today who even knew him, which affords me very few opportunities for reminiscing regarding shared references.
Yet it is still important for me to keep his memory alive. I want it known that he was a good man who put his family’s protection before everything else. He was a blue-collar guy with a strong work ethic. He was extremely loyal and trustworthy. It seemed he could fix anything. Those are the simple qualities I remember the most.
People who know my family frequently comment that I look like my mom. They have no idea that my oversized ears, my skin tone, my desire to independently solve problems and my passion for the Buffalo Bills (which began under his tutelage at the age of 5) all come from my dad.
I sometimes think about what it would have been like to have him around during various events of the past 40 years. What candidates would he have supported? Would he have found “Seinfeld” funny? O.J.: innocent or guilty? What restaurants would have been his favorites? Would his discussions of Wide Right, No Goal and Forward Lateral have spanned years? How much could we all have learned from our helpful handyman grandpa?
As a teen and young woman, I grew into a state of acceptance of our family circumstances. As an adult, I am thankful for all the opportunities I have had since then. My mother did a great job raising my brother and me and adapted admirably to becoming a 43-year-old widow. I often think of how impressed my dad would be with her, as she evolved from a 1960s housewife who didn’t even drive into a working mother who was a capable leader of our family at a time when single-parent households were far less common than they are now. She made sure we were focused and busy in school and activities, supported us through college, and guided us smoothly into adulthood.
Perspective is a blessing bestowed over time, and despite what I thought in July 1973, my life was not over. But even though I’ve moved far past mourning, I really have missed sharing life with my dad.