When I was about 14, I bought the Mercer Mayer “Just Me and My Dad” book — one of the Little Critter series — for my nephew, who was about 2 at the time. I remember crying when I bought it because of how close I was, am, to my own dad.
What can I say, I’m overly emotional.
My dad would say, “That’s because you’re a woman.”
And that might be offensive to some people, or hearing it from someone else. But then my dad, who raised four daughters, would laugh, and pull you into a big hug and say, “Everything is going to be all right.”
My dad is on his way to the airport, after spending a week with us. I hadn’t seen him in a year, and I can barely type this without wanting to just curl up into a ball and cry. I miss him already, and I just said goodbye.
We had a wonderful visit. My dad raised me from when I was 11, and he and I are super, incredibly close. I hope that I can share some of his best qualities with my own children.
Like always being there for a hug. Or always willing to talk, about anything, at any time, with no judgment. Or being kind to others. I’ve watched my dad, who worked in a factory for more than 45 years and didn’t have a lot of money, buy others’ Thanksgiving turkeys or pay for someone’s Christmas dinner. Buy gifts for kids, sell raffle tickets for fund-raisers. Even now, he and his wife send boxes of garage sale clothes for us to share with daycare kids who need warm coats or summer sandals.
He is kindhearted and loving.
And this week, my kids were able to experience that. We took a trip to the park, and Genevieve crawled onto his lap, shared her juice box and insisted that he let her hold his water bottle (and wouldn’t give it back).
Jack carried his cane around and asked him nonstop questions.
And my dad and I sat there, watched my kids, and both had to choke back tears. He’s just as sentimental as I am, maybe more so. He cries when he sees little girls in Easter dresses, overwhelmed with nostalgia for when his own girls were little.
I love that Jack and Viv warmed right up to him, ran to him for hugs, and talked to him. He told me Jack said, “How was your day, Grandpa Jack? I’m so glad you are here, Grandpa Jack!”
I can’t even tell you how happy that makes me.
He’s had a checkered past, to say the least. It involved some jail time, some bad decisions. But not a lot of regret. He’s just not someone who regrets things.
But it still made it extra funny when he bought Jack a little yellow Corvette car for a few bucks at the grocery store.
“Dad, was that the least you’ve ever paid for a car?” I joked.
“No, Jackie, I’ve paid a lot less,” he laughed, referring to his past.
We used to go to the movies all the time when I was growing up, and we did that this week, too. And then yesterday I came home from work, and my dad had bought me (and the kids) flowers, and he and Philip had decided that I deserved a night out.
So, just like we used to when I lived at home, my dad and I went out to dinner together.
We spent about 2 hours at dinner. Just talking. He offered me advice — as always — about marriage. About how to help make Jack listen. About what a firecracker Viv is and how happy he is that I’ll have a daughter who gives me as much grief as I gave him.
Grief I, of course, don’t remember giving.
He’ll be getting on a plane soon, and it probably will be another year before we see each other. We talk at least once a week.
And at least every other week, I pick up my voicemail or phone to hear Chuck Berry’s “No Particular Place to Go” blaring. Every time my dad hears it, he calls me to tell me. I used to love that song when I was in fifth grade. And I guess I still do.
The best part about time with my dad was knowing that for a few hours every day, I had no particular place to go. Just a summer afternoon, sitting on the porch while the kids played, talking with my dad about whatever came up.
I miss him already.