I think of my dad throughout the day, every day. Memories play like a movie in my head, vivid and beautiful. I rewind, play, rewind, and play again. He is laughing and sharing his wisdom, and sometimes he is filled with sadness. I see him, I hear him and I feel his presence, an energy that comforts me. Memories arise with regularity from the routine and random happenings of my days. Driving home from work, I approach the familiar left turn and I want to stop by the house, the house where I grew up. My heels click on the Mexican pavers as I enter his den; he wonders which of his girls is here tonight. I find him sitting at his large oak desk in the dimly lit corner of the room, eyes lifted looking just above his glasses. Christini he says, exaggerating the long vowel sounds. Smiling he offers his cheek for me to kiss. Have you eaten?
Contemplating a late movie, mid-week, I want to call him, Dad I’ll come by and get you; he tells me he’ll be ready in five. He insists on buying the tickets and has me step aside so he can purchase two senior priced seats. Shaking my head I do as he asks, remembering the days long ago when I pretended to be twelve so he could get the child’s price. I don’t know why, but I always considered this gipping folks out of a few bucks as being a very Italian thing to do. In any case, my dad did it often, something that amused us kids and annoyed our mom.
Walking on the beach trail, my dad is by my side, listening to my stories, my dilemmas. Telling him everything, I ask for advice and guidance. Throughout his life, he tried so hard to protect me from hurt and pain. As I face my own challenges as a parent, I understand now the worry and stress he must have felt. I want to believe he hears me, and helps me, but no longer worries because he sees what I cannot see. His mind and heart are at peace.
Running out to the soccer field on Sundays, I see him, warming up, kicking the ball a bit and jogging in his black sweats and watch cap. There are so many days when my body is beaten and sore, I want to hang up my cleats for good. But I’m not ready to leave my dad on the field without me. He cheers me on, congratulating me on a well-executed play, and I hear That’s my girl one more time.
With these memories so clear, it’s hard to believe my dad passed away seven years ago, two weeks after his sixty-ninth birthday. We didn’t celebrate what would have been his last birthday on this earth. My mom was dying, and we were all so damn sad. My dad sent his children this email.
Sent: Thursday, January 31, 2008 10:01:25 PM
Subject: Hi All I would be grateful if we let my birthday pass un-noticed. Love/dad
And I replied . . . In a message dated 2/1/2008 10:44:29 A.M. Pacific Standard Time,
Hi Dad, At a minimum I must say Happy Birthday and that I love you. As hard as this is for all of us, I can’t begin to imagine how hard this is for you. I’d do anything to help you. Xoc
And then he replied . . . Feb 1, 2008
You are doing it. L/d
I remember crying my eyes out when I received this message. My heart was breaking for my dad as he was losing the love of his life. At the same time, I knew his short sweet message was one of gratitude and I was proud and honored to be his daughter.
Today is my dad seventy-sixth birthday. I am grateful to have so many wonderful memories. I was so lucky to be his daughter. Happy Birthday Dad, I love you and miss you. I feel sure you and mom are celebrating.:-)
We celebrate you here every day. xoc