June 15, 2023

10 Memories of my Dad that are Only Mine.

“No Daddy! Nooooo!”

I was scared, yet I knew I could trust my daddy. I knew he would never hurt me.

But. I. Was. Scared.

The ocean was so huge to my six-year-old self. Giant waves—tall, violent, giant waves—rose and came crashing to the shore. I did not know this beach.

Daddy kneeled on the sand as I climbed onto his back. He stood holding my legs; he was so strong. I was still scared. Not to be riding up high but worried what lay ahead.

He was going to walk into the scary, huge ocean with the scary, high waves. He reassured me it would be all right, that the salt water would cleanse my nose and help with my daily headaches. He walked, and I felt my heart beating faster and faster. I think he said to keep my mouth closed and let the water in my nose.

Then a huge wave crashed over us; my mouth flew open. Daddy carried me back to shore and gently placed me on the beach. I was okay. I could feel my breath.

Daddy was right. Daddy was always right.

Thank you, Daddy.

Daddy, I don’t want to go the Sunday school. They tell stories—some are nice and some are not nice. I don’t feel anything. Do I have to go? Daddy, please say no. You told me no, I did not have to go, but you felt better knowing I would be left there with my little sister. My grown-up memory of this recalls a sense of responsibility you instilled in me. You respected my wishes to speak for myself.

Thank you, Daddy.

Daddy stood at the foot of the staircase in our tiny row home and turned his strong arms out and bent them. Strong arms. He kneeled down enough for me to wrap my hands around an arm and up we went. Up the staircase to the landing. And off to bed I went. I honestly feel like he must have done that nightly routine until I was 12, although I am certain it did not go on that many years.

Thank you, Daddy.

Daddy, thank you for the best drives to Ohio to visit Mumma and Pappa. We packed the car, cat included, and traveled from Baltimore, Maryland, to Warren, Ohio, and got to go through amazing tunnels made in the mountains in Pennsylvania. I used to know their names; I think there were seven. I should fact-check that. Daddy knew how much I loved rocks and gems and stones. He always knew when to pull over at one of the mountain-tunnels and let me collect some purple rocks to add to my collection. I think he must have seen me smiling when I saw just the right mountain-tunnel.

Thank you, Daddy.

Thank you, Dad. I called mom and you one evening to let you both know I was having a minor procedure in the morning, but they would be giving me anesthesia. I just wanted to let you both know, you know, just in case. Dad, thank you for asking if I needed anything. I said no, I was going to the mall to get a prescription filled for post-surgery. My surprise when I walked out of Rite Aid later that evening to find you standing outside the store. Your warm, but concerned smile made me so happy. You asked if I had eaten and I said, not yet. We walked into the cafeteria restaurant next door, and you bought us dinner and we talked a long time.

Thank you, Dad.

Some Saturdays, when I knew mom was at work, I took my car to your house and proceeded to wash it. I did not knock on the door. I didn’t have to; you would hear my car and see me washing it. I loved those Saturdays, just the two of us. I loved how you always checked my oil and reminded me to check it regularly. But I didn’t have to—I had special, secret Saturday time with you.

Thank you, Dad.

I really had no intention of going to my undergraduate college graduation. I had graduated from the School of Radiology and gone to that one. I am so not into ceremony. When I told you and mom I had finished but would not be walking on stage, mom called me. She said you were so proud of me, that you had bought film for your camera a year before. Of course, I walked the stage and I am so glad.

Thank you, Dad. (And thank you mom for telling me.)

I did not buy my first house until I was 37 years old. It was a trashed, 68-year-old fixer upper. I was not pleased with the upcoming work to be done on it. Why did I make that choice? Dad, I saw your house, growing up in Ohio before me. When I walked in: the foyer, the dark wood, the French doors opening to the tiny living room, the former cold porch turned into a kitchen. The claw foot tub and tiny black and white tiled bathroom floor. I was transported back to Warren, Ohio, and sitting on the big front porch. Thank you, Dad, for the days you had mom drop you off there to help Hank work on it. Thank you, Dad, for doing whatever chore you were given.

Thank you, Dad.

Thank you, Dad. I was so sad your last six weeks on this earth. I was sad seeing you in the hospital. Thank you for all the talks we had during those weeks. I was grateful to have a job where I could take time from work and go out in the field to conduct clinical site visits. Always stopping into that hospital. If you were sleeping, I would set up a portable workstation by your bed and work. I remember one time feeling you watching me and as I turned to meet your gaze, you asked why I worked so hard. Thank you for that lesson, although it took me a long time to realize that it’s not all about work.

Thank you, Dad.

I loved hearing your stories. I knew we were approaching the end of your time as your memories wove into your current reality. Some folks would find these sad, but I found them lovely. The time you told me Uncle Carl had been visiting you right before I came. I said, “Your brother passed away many years ago.” You nodded yes. Then, I said, that it was so nice he came to see you. You said he was president of St. Joseph’s Hospital. Ah, light bulb moment. You were in a St. Joseph’s Hospital, but I did not remind you that Uncle Carl’s position at a different location was not as president, but close enough. There were so many other lovely memories you shared that, to you, were all currently happening.

Thank you, Dad.

Dad, I left out the memories of how you came to help me on several other occasions. They do not need to know my darkness. Maybe another time. I want this to be about a few of the lovely memories I have of you.

Thank you, Dad. I miss you. You are in my heart, always.

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