It’s been a very long time since I’ve called my father daddy. My sissies still call him that, and I feel a pang in my heart, wishing I could also. Too much has passed since the days of “Daddy” to the “Dad” of the present. I think I love my father more now than I ever had before, because now I love him with my eyes wide open. He’s not some great man on a pedestal that I worshipped. He’s a great man, who has done great things, touched the lives of many, and only God knows how many souls are in heaven because of his great ministry that continues to this day.
I have no sadness when it comes to my father, okay, maybe a little bit. I love him. I adore him. With eyes wide open. I pray my own children will be able to see me the same way, with eyes wide open and still love me and adore me, after most my life’s work has been done, and all the mistakes and all the promises, some broken, and all the good and the love and the sacrifices I made to be their mom.
My relationship with my dad is best and most memorable at his kitchen table in the very early morning after he’s gotten up and turned the Mets pillow on the couch back to show the Mets side, and after I have turned it back to show the red side without him seeing, because no true Cubs fan can actually have a Mets pillow anywhere near them without remembering 1969. Sigh. But, I guess Dad has gone to the dark side having moved out east with his wife. Maybe in more ways than just the Mets pillow, or maybe the Mets pillow was just one more difference from his youngest daughter who is so much like him, but is doing it her own way with a little more, well, testes than he. He grumbles a little when I say that to him, but he knows it’s true. My dad isn’t one for conflict, where I feel conflict is a very healthy thing, not that I would look for it. While it’s healthy, say, to get an inoculation, it’s not something I look forward to, you know? But, I pull up my sleeve and take it when necessary. Not my dad, he will avoid it at his own peril, and this has been proven.
I remember as a young girl, coming in at night after a date and sitting on the red shag carpet in his brown paneled study and talking to him. He was always studying, probably studying for his PHD and he’d lay his book on his chest that had exactly 11 long straight hairs on it, and close his eyes and listen. I wanted to talk to him about love, and he loved to talk about love, he’s a believer in love, and has been greatly loved in his life and has greatly loved. Each boy that I fell in love with, and there really were only two before I met my husband, he listened about them, everything I could say, and he would nod and smile. I told him the tough stuff, too, and this is where his face would almost melt, this is not where he was well versed. Conflict.
My dad is 90 years old, can’t hear so good, but still laughs at his girls, drives super well, and tells stories that brings his twinsies to tears when we visit him. He says he prays for each loved one by name, in fact, almost all those he has loved, here and in heaven. I made him prove it one year, and he closed his eyes and for a full ten minutes he listed them all, he’d grimace here and there as a name eluded him, but it would come and his voice would get full of emotion when he prayed for his twin brother in heaven, and his father and mother, but he listed us all, down to in-law children, and family I hadn’t even met. And tears streamed down my face wiped away with my sleeve.
His wife Hertha is 92 and a stoic German lady who finds the tears troubling. “Why cry, Fred?” And will think they are tears of sadness, and you know, maybe they are, we cry because we are together, we can hear each other’s voices (as best as we can), see each other’s faces. You can’t imagine how blessed we feel to be together still, oh, wait, I bet you can and I’m sorry for your sorrow.
Twinsie and I are so excited. We are planning our trip out to see them in just a few weeks. We are antiquing our way through the southern states for five days before we pull into the drive of their home, we will find a little gem or two for our dad and Hertha, and they will oooh and aaah and it will be there on dad’s desk in his study when we come the next year, God willing. This year will be harder as dementia like a thief continues to steal Hertha’s precious memory and leaves her confused, but we will engage her and her beautiful smile will light up and her feminine laugh will ring. We will roll up our sleeves and help them with the work they need done, even if it’s just one of us keeping Hertha busy while dad has a sit with his other twin so she can soothe him and let him talk.
We will go to their favorite Italian place, him driving, and I will watch his face in the rear view mirror and just be amazed that we are here with him. We will sit at the table and the waitresses will know them, and he will proudly say these are his twinsies all the way from Chicago, and he will tell us a story and we will cry, and laugh, and Hertha will “tsk tsk” as she sips her manhattan and we will be a little shy at our open and honest display of emotion, and I will glance at my dad, and look into those milky blue eyes and still find Daddy.