There was something about my Dad that was unique and wonderful. Maybe I imagined it because I am his daughter and loved him so very much. Maybe it was a quality shared by those brave members of the greatest generation who left behind all they had ever known to fight and die on foreign soil. Whatever it was, imagined or real, it has survived long after he left us 21 years ago today.
There was a dichotomy to my father's personality. He was at times serious and solemn and very direct. He had a bad temper. He worked hard and expected no less from those around him. He did not sit still for long unless he was on his riding lawnmower. He would mow for hours making patterns on the lawn. It must've been a type of therapy for him. He was usually happiest when there was work to be done.
And then there were times of pure joy. There was a spring in his step. A twinkle in his eyes. He loved nature and baseball and talking to people. He loved his home. He was loyal to his family. He took care of everything.
For as long as I can remember, one Sunday every month was spent driving to see my paternal grandfather who lived a little over an hour away. My Grandpa owned an antique store. We would visit him and take him out for lunch and then return home. In later years, my Grandpa had no short-term memory. We still visited him every month until his failing memory forced him to live with my Aunt. And after he passed away, my Dad was the one who tended to his grave site. He bought the grave stone, planted flowers and tended to them every day in the summer. It never mattered that he and his father had not had a good relationship when my Dad was young. He felt it was his duty to respect his parents. And he did.
My Dad had a wonderful singing voice. I heard a story that he had won a 4H contest when he was young. He had sung "Beautiful Dreamer". One of my most cherished memories is of my Dad swinging me back and forth in his arms and singing "Swinging on a Star" when I was small. He knew the entire song. And I would giggle when he would sing the verses about a mule, a fish and a pig. It's a memory that I keep close to my heart.
His passing left a void in my life the size of Texas. Many times I've wondered what Dad would've done . . . I hear his voice in my head saying, "Think twice before you do once." I find myself wondering what he would've thought about certain things. Is he somewhere where he can still look out after us? And what is he doing to keep busy now? For a very long time, the not-knowing bothered me.
I feel his presence around me all the time. Not long ago, I lost control of my van on an icy road, and it was his voice I heard yelling for me to turn the wheel. Last summer, my son had a double play on first base in a baseball game. He tagged the runner going to second base and then got the batter out at first. Then he caught a fly ball. He got all three outs that inning. As I was cheering on my son, I felt something on my shoulder and then a slight breeze blew by me. And I knew my Dad saw the whole thing. This morning when I looked out the window at the cold, sunny sky and thought about missing my Dad, a cardinal flew up onto my deck and looked at me as if to let me know that my Dad misses me too.
Mostly, I feel his presence through my children. My daughter who is solemn and studious, and my son who is happy-go-lucky. Both have his mannerisms. My son has his eyes and smile. They ask about him from time to time. I show them a couple of pictures I have. Flat, one-dimensional images of a man they never knew. I tell them stories. They like to think that he is in Heaven with angels. I like to think that he sits on the moon and swings from stars.
"And all the monkeys aren't in a zoo. Every day you meet quite a few. So you see, it's all up to you. You can be better than you are. You could be swingin' on a star." Lyrics from "Swinging on a Star".