Day 20 – See ya later alligator


In awhile crocodile.

A story about my dad that very few people outside of my family know.  A story that I never heard until I was about 26 years old.  Through unfortunate circumstances, I was told that the father I grew up with was not my biological father.  Everyone freaked out when I heard the news.  Everyone panicked.  Apparently everyone knew but me.  The only person who did not freak out was.. well.. me.  In my mind, it didn’t matter.  It really didn’t.  He was the only dad I knew. He was the only man who ever took care of me, treated me like his own, treated me with respect and unconditional love.. as a real dad.. pops.. father would.  Why would I care if someone else was the biological part of me.  I really didn’t care.

Apparently, he had told everyone that he didn’t want me to ever find out that he was not my “real” dad.  He wanted me to feel secure in his love, parental place in my life, and a part of him.  I felt all of those things. As a matter of fact, if anyone had ever stated that one of my parents was not my biological parent.. I would have guessed it was my mom.  Seriously.  Dad always told me I was his favorite (he had a heart for runts I guess).  He was a truck driver and I would always beg him to go on trips with him.  He almost always caved in.  Those were some of my favorite times. (we had the same sense of humor).  Mom and dad cut wood to heat our house and to sell to make ends meet.  I was the only one who really loved doing this with them.  (I’m clumsy and often got hurt, but it was the time spent together that I loved and I would love to think that he loved it too.. he did.)

When he found out that I had learned he was not my father, HE was devastated.  Remember my family had freaked out.. my mom.. sisters.. aunts.. etc..(apparently I came across as a delicate flower that would not recover from such torrential raining news… I didn’t).  He had no idea how honored I was that his love for me was much more than just a father loving his daughter.  It was a solid choice he made.  A choice that he made before I was even born.  He WANTED me.

Both mom and dad had been married before and both had children from their first marriages.  Mom was pregnant with me when she met dad.  He knew about me and CHOSE to marry her and CHOSE to care for me like a biological father.  CHOSE to care for my older sister like a biological daughter. He never treated any of us different from the other.  I was honored.  Didn’t even bother searching for a lost biological link.  I didn’t care.  No one loved me like dad loved me and maybe nobody ever will.  That’s ok.. I suppose it would be sort of weird if someone did.

So, as you can imagine, when he was diagnosed with Stage 3 stomach cancer how devastated I was.  April 2020.  Pure devastation.  However, he had a good attitude. Despite COVID, travel restrictions, work, etc. I was able to go home from mid-July to mid-August.  He was actually doing great.  He was tolerating the treatment and had a great attitude.  We knew it was terminal but he was doing so great that we had hope he could maybe beat it.  I went back to work with a plan to come back in October for his 80th birthday.

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Between July and October he had several birthday parties.  My beautiful sister and her amazing husband took him to Denver to visit his sisters, both in their 90s.  It was the first time he had flown first class.

They also took him on a road trip to visit a hill where mom and her family had their ashes spread years before (sadly the hill was gone.. as was our family favorite “Hungry Horse”).  Despite all of that .. he had vowed to just keep living life until he was done.  I was able to go to the cancer center with him for his treatments, have lunch at our favorite cafe, visit with his friends, have a couple of backyard barbeques, and on and on.  He had told me several times that his goal was his actual 80th birthday.

From my visit in July until I returned in October, I saw an extreme difference in his health.  He had lost over 50 pounds from August to October.  Sometimes he would talk but often he would just stare.  He was barely eating.  But he was adamant about having an 80th birthday party.  It was scheduled for the 17th of October.  Well, he made it.  Even did a shot of something.  Many of his friends were there.  Many more were not.  He then made it to his actual birthday a week later.  He was barely cognizant by this point but his determination was as it had always been.  He was going to see his actual birthday.  We took him out for a birthday water at this point.  Even fewer friends were present but he made it.   Six days after he turned 80, he had decided enough was enough.  He was tired.  He stopped eating.  It was time.

It was hard to watch .. and sometimes harder to remember other times.  It was gut-wrenching.  He told me during the early stages that he always thought he would go out like a fire-cracker (both his dad and his brother had died in their 60s from heart attacks).  He never expected this slow painful crawl to death.  We all tried to make his last days as pleasant as possible.  Didn’t want to focus on him dying but on his life.  That’s what he wanted.  I have a couple pictures of him in his last moments but that’s not what I want to share. It’s not what I want to remember.  So I will leave with these final images instead.

Love ya dad.

“When I was a child, all problems had ended with a single word from my father. A smile from him was sunshine, his scowl a bolt of thunder. He was smart, and generous, and honorable without fail. He could exile a trespasser, check my math homework, and fix the leaky bathroom sink, all before dinner. For the longest time, I thought he was invincible. Above the petty problems that plagued normal people. And now he was gone.” – Rachel Vincent

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Da Da Daddio


Here you are so long ago.. where’d the time go da da daddio?  What were your dreams, your fears, your hopes? Expectations.. yes’s no’s? So hard to believe .. this was you. Yet, you told me a few dozen years ago that you felt it still was you!! But when you looked in the mirror, you could not believe what you saw.  You asked yourself as you stared intently, “Who the hell is that old man?”  I laughed at that.  Though i completely understood.  Now, a few dozen years later.. I ask myself, where’d the time go da da daddio?

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Here you are in the middle flow.. where’d the time go da da daddio? You found your true love.  You stayed steadfast and true.  You worked like a dog and you saw us through.  We were so young you watched us grow and loved ones go and still you rocked and rolled. Through births .. work.. joys.. pains.. pains in the asses.. fast times … slow times… graduations.. separations.. grandkids.. life in the middle.. watch it go.. and go.. and go.  What did we miss?  How could we know?  How fast the time would flow like a raging river.  Like a bird… time, it flies.. away .. sort of flew away.  How COULD we know?  Where’d the time go da da daddio?

Here you are not so long ago.. where’d the time go da da daddio? You lost your true love and now are alone.  We wondered how you would fare for yourself.  What would you do?  How could you possibly be just one .. just one.  A solo act?  But you carried on and made new friends.  Took vacations.. traveled.. laughed and lived.  There were definite lows but none too low.  There were definite highs.. but none too high.  Where’d the time go da da daddio?

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Hey, hey, hey da da daddio!  Time still passed and life still flowed.  Oh those years.. where did they go? Tell me, tell me da da daddio!! A star rising a sun setting.  Moon dances .. weddings.. women chasing you as the most eligible bachelor in the place. A million hours passed and you enjoyed every single one of them.  More time passed and more time passed and more time passed.  I live so far away but every time I come home .. it’s the same .. but so different .. where’s the time going da da daddio?

you’re almost 80 .. not so old.. i tell myself .. and yet i know.. there comes a time we all must go .. but you’re still here for now and so .. my heart holds tight .. my eyes they flow .. what the hell do doctors know ..

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Here we were not so long ago.. where’d the time go da da daddio?

“I smile because you’re my father. I laugh because there’s nothing you can do about it.” – Unknown

Dad – Behind every great daughter is a truly amazing dad


My last post about my dad was back in June.  I just went back and read it about 3 times.  Loved looking at the photos and remembering him how he was.  He has always been the most influential man in my life.  He lifted my self-esteem (Sami, you are my favorite!). He helped me grow great work ethics (It’s better to do a job right the first time then have to re-do the job) and a superb ability to out stubborn anyone (Sami, always admit when you are wrong, but if you are right, never back down).  He developed in me a crazy ability to laugh at my own jokes, even if no one else did and to tell really, really terrible jokes (Little Johnny was in the classroom and had to go to the bathroom, he raised his hand and said…).

I am who I am because of him.

My Daddy was my hero. He was always there for me when I needed him. He listened to me and taught me so many things. But most of all he was fun.
—Bindi Irwin

No worries, he’s still here.  But he’s aging, getting sick, being hospitalized, getting out, continuing on with his crazy life, going a little crazy at times, getting sick again, acting like a child, getting old, and just moving through life faster than I want him to.

Years ago he said to me as we were sitting in a dive bar in Spokane, “Sami, you see that young man walking through that door? How old do you think he is?” I looked at the young man walking in the bar and said, “Well he’s at least 21!”  Dad said, “Yeah, at least 21!  That’s how I see myself when I think of myself.  Then I walk by a mirror and I think….who is that old man looking back at me.  I can’t imagine it’s me.  I never feel that way.  I can’t imagine it’s me.  I really can’t”

We both sort of laughed about it and moved on with our lives.  Fast forward about 20 years.  I feel what he felt sometimes.  But I feel it more when i look at him now.  Especially being so far away from him.

When I was working in Nepal, I had just gone through the earthquake and so was a little shattered and scattered and I happened to call him up.  He didn’t sound like himself at all.  I was convinced he had had a minor stroke.  I rushed home as quickly as I could.. which is a feat.. let me tell you.  The folks I worked for were super amazing and supported me through this emotional roller coaster.  I arrived back in Spokane and for the most part it seemed like all was well and I had panicked for no reason at all.  Except, every once in a while, he would sort of tear up.  Right before I was due to leave for my next assignment, I met up with him and he looked ecstatic.  I asked him why he was so darn happy all of a sudden.  He told me he had received GREAT news from the doctor.. all of his tests came back clean and he was as healthy as an old horse like him could be.  So, apparently there had been a reason for me to sort of panic.  Dads.. what are you gonna do.

Well, about 3 good years later and here we go again.  A few weeks ago, I got a call from my sister.  She said, “Dad’s been in the hospital with heart and kidney problems.  He also has pneumonia.  Apparently he had been in an auto accident several  weeks ago and didn’t tell anyone.”  He checked himself out of the hospital because he didn’t want to stay there. Wouldn’t follow any of the doctor’s recommendations and was being a pain in the butt to everyone.  She flew to Arizona and worked him through his situation and attitude. Got his meds worked out and sent some pictures to help my other sister and i get emotionally prepared for whatever might happen.

Snidely Whiplash

This is a little doohickey dad found in a parking lot. Snidely rode with my dad for nearly 40 years when he was a truck driver. I began using it as a “keep dad safe” lucky charm.

Over the course of the past few weeks, my sis has been going from Washington to Arizona to check in on him, get him set up with doctors, physical therapy.  I’m not sure what I would have done, or how I would have handled it without her.  It’s been super stressful and emotional.  It’s so weird to see him in this position.  It breaks my heart.

When I think of him that is now how I see him.  I can’t imagine it’s him.  In my minds eye and in my heart, that’s not how I see him.  Then I look at these pictures or see him in person and I think….who is that old man looking back at me.  I can’t imagine it’s him.  I really can’t.

Then, as I was writing this blog, literally just now, my sister sent me the below messages and photos.

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I catch my breath and in my head say, “Thank you!!” Because now, for a minute at least,  I can imagine him .. how I think of him ..

Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes.
—Gloria Naylor

 

Happy Papa Day


Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad, and that’s why I call you dad, because you are so special to me. You taught me the game and you taught me how to play it right. Wade Boggs

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When I was about 26, I found out the dad I grew up with was not my biological father.  Everyone thought I would freak out.  They freaked out.  Every single person in my family seemed to know this already.  Unbeknownst to me, I had so many people trying to solve this 26 year long mystery for me. They spent months trying to get to the bottom of it.

What they did not know is that I WAS shocked.  But not in the way they might have realized.  I was shocked that everyone in my family had kept a secret for 26 years.  My family has never been good at not blathering on about everything, every place and everyone they knew.  I WAS freaking out.. but only because I thought it would be so cool to have more siblings. I always wanted to come from a gigantic family.  Think Partridge Family or Brady Bunch.. I could start a band or..uh.. travel across the states and get into ridiculous escapades..well maybe not.. but I thought it would be cool.

More than anything I was amazed.  Amazed that the dad I grew up with, knew he was not my biological father and wanted to keep that a secret from me in order to avoid hurting me.  I never doubted for a second that he loved each of us deeply and without pause and as his own children.

He used to tell me I was his favorite.  I had his sense of humor, his walk, his work ethics.  I worshipped him.  I still do.  He was a steady beacon of light on the shore of a wild sea of women.  He was dependable, funny, and strong.  He was my dad, my papa, the man to whom all other men would need to aspire to win my heart.  I love you dad!!

Without my dad, I wouldn’t be here. Maria Sharapova

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My Dad is my hero. Harry Connick, Jr.