- My dad hand painted the saying above the door outside our home in
- Seal Beach, California
- Fortuna Fortibus Favet.
Fortune Favors the Bold
My dad left this earth on September 8, 2008, and still not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. This is my story of my dad and me. No matter how big a family may be, each child will hold dear the individual memories that they shared with a parent. I am number 7 in the line of 11. My dad and I were always simpatico.
For a few years after my mother left home to pursue other interests, it was my dad, and I left to raise the five remaining kids, the one maternal grandfather, and others that would come through our revolving door.
It was my father that spoke to me about wedding plans, and my dad was the one to soothe my broken heart the first time a boy broke it. My dad was the parent that got up at six in the morning to drive me to the high school twenty minutes away because I missed the bus that would get me there in time for the parade.
Family lore says I was daddy’s girl from the very first day of life. As the story goes, my mother would put me in the cradle (my dad handcrafted for all eleven children) to sleep. As soon as my dad would come through the door at the end of the day, I would pick my little head up to see my favorite person in the world; My dad. Of course, I can’t remember that time, but my earliest memories of my dad are these:
At the age of about 2 or 3, we went to see fireworks in Long Beach, somewhere along Ocean Blvd. I remember this because you could see the Queen Mary across the water. Anyway, there were those sparklers that people held and twirled, and they scared the daylights out of me… My dad saw this and scooped me up in his arms and told me not to be afraid. “Hold my hand, and watch me. See… there is nothing to be afraid of, watch me write your name…” I have remembered that my whole life on every 4th of July. But between you and me, I never got over my fear of those sparklers!
When it was time to learn to tie my shoe, my dad sat with me patiently on our red painted kitchen porch. Practiced, and practiced until I got it right. He acted as if I was the first he taught when I am number seven in the line of kids!
When it was time to leave 1st grade for 2nd, I was scared, and I just did not want to go. He tousled my braids and said… “It will be so much fun in second grade; You won’t believe how much you will learn!” He said it would be so much better than 1st, and it was.
When I left at the age of eleven to sail around the world, it was at the airport that my dad held tight to my hand, and offered to go with me to Pago Pago American Samoa. I told him I could do it, but I never forgot the offer, and it wasn’t until recently that I realized he was probably as scared as I was to put me on the plane in the first place!
When I came back from sailing around the world a year later, it was my dad that helped me to re-enter the atmosphere. He taught me to cook, and for many years he and I cooked every holiday dinner together.
On my wedding day, my dad held onto me tight as we walked the aisle, and it is said that the big strong man shed a tear or two!
My dad was always there for me. Good or bad, thick or thin. It wasn’t always perfect, but I knew my father loved me. Before he lost so much, we were able to share that with one another.
It was humbling for me to be there for my dad when it came time to bury his mother. I took care of all of the details, and as I look back, it was then that I started to see the signs of Lewy Body Dementia. Dad was scared. He wanted me to identify her one last time, as he just couldn’t do it. My strong dad needed me. But I did just as he taught me. I did not shame him or embarrass him. I just showed him the way and touched his arm in the way he always touched mine, to say it would be ok.
The last years were hardest. My dad was quick to fear and temper. He did not know who I was. But as I sit here with tears in my eyes, I know that it is ok. Because the gifts my dad gave me are gifts to pass to my kids. Moral ethics, an extra seat at the table, charity, patriotism, and loyalty.
Growing up in a beach town, where a Navy base stood, my father never forgot his military roots as a Navy brat, and always paid for the meal of a sailor if they were in the same restaurant. Even during times of peace, he would thank them for their service and dedication. To this day, I can’t look at a soldier without stopping to say thank you and get all ferklempt for their selfless service. Each is a hero to me. I know in my heart, it is my dad reminding me to be grateful for the freedom I enjoy.
My dad hated prejudice of any kind. He would not tolerate it, especially from his children. We were lucky to receive that gift, as he knew the world would change and evolve, and acceptance is the greatest gift you can give another human being.
I miss my dad, but when I close my eyes, I can see him now in his three-piece Brooks Brothers suit. I can smell his Old Spice, and look down at his polished brown wing tips. Pipe in hand, and the smell of tobacco fresh in my memory bank. That is the dad I remember. And my favorite memory of all is that every morning before he would go off to the trenches of Los Angeles Unified School District as a well-respected Principal, he would take one last look in the mirror and say “Don’t mess with me… I’m a star!”
He will always be my star. I miss you, dad!
Happy Father’s Day!