Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Big Daddy

* Note to google stumbler who is searching for Adam Sandler silliness - sorry to dissapoint. I like to name my posts after movies. This movie offers a title I like. I've never seen it. We cool??* 

My Dad died when I was 20. I don't recommend this. I think waiting until you're 40 and up is a more preferable time frame to say goodbye to a parent's presence on this planet. Anything before 30 and it's going to be a life definer. Anything before 20 and it's so big all of your therapy will never quite get you through it. So I fall in the almost no recovery but not quite; certainly a life defining moment category as a member of the dead dad club.

My Dad was always going on diet's. He was built pretty much like a bear anyway, add the beard and fuzzy hair-do and he definitely had the 'bear' thing going for him. To lose weight he'd eat a mono diet of crackers for many days. Not kidding, the cracker diet. He'd drop about 10 pounds in 5 minutes 'cause you know, it's a male thing, they can do that.

He wore blue short sleeve shirts with a collar and a pocket. Do you know the one? Not the stiff starchee one, the soft kind. The pocket held is cigarettes. And a lighter that was always falling out when he bent over. He had these really great looking calves, like a tennis star. The only trouble is they were always really dinged up by coffee tables and any low flying objects. Benches, things like that. He had an eye disease called Retinitis pigmentosa. If you're not into following links, I'll say this:  He was loosing his eyesight very slowly, moving from the periphery in. What he could see, he could see well, it was just a very limited field. Take a pin, poke a piece of paper, look through that.

He was a really kind man. People really liked him - you couldn't help it. My cousins remember him as someone who would make you feel like you're the only person in the room or even in the world. He was very present with you, you had all of his attention. It was like a light swung by and stopped on you and your little person needs. This wasn't of course always my experience as a little person, but I get why that's how they remember him. And I really like it.

My favorite memory of my father happened when I was thirteen and my heart got broken. I mean smushed flat and stomped hard for the first time. A boy named Sean broke up with me a few days before homecoming. From then on my parents called him 'Ob-Sean'. I grew up in Texas y'all, and let me tell you, football and homecoming is a BFD. So getting dumped by the quarterback a few days before the big rally and game was pretty devastating for anyone, and for this lil sensitive thing? Disaster.

I was a twirler. There were four of us, we didn't perform with the band, more like in the shadow of the cheerleaders with a microphone and boom box. We had a big routine to perform at both the pep rally and the game. As the scorned girl, I felt that time more than ever, I needed to get it right. There waas nothing worse than the thump. thump, thump of the baton down the wooden stage steps and having to scramble into the audience in my white jazz shoes, nude stockings and short skirt to pick it up.

So I was obsessively practicing my routine in the backyard. Steady tears, scratchy grass and waning twilight were my company as I did the routine over and over and over again. Somehow that flashing silver in the dim light was bringing me the slightest sense of peace, I drank it up until the day gave in to pitch black. As I walked into the kitchen door, I discovered a strange sight.  My dad was sitting at the kitchen table crying his eyes out. He was on the phone with his sister Jane (who yes I was named after) and she was trying to help him through my heartbreak.

He tried to compose himself but I'll never forget his beautiful hazel eyes all red rimmed and wet. After getting off the phone, he took off his glasses and hugged me. We both wept. And then laughed. And cursed Ob-Sean's name, which was easy to do thanks to the nickname.

Can you imagine? How loved I felt? How completely understood and cherished? The light swung by and held my sopping little heart. Sure I think it sucks that I missed twenty to thirty years of being an adult and a relationship with a Dad. But. I had a lot then.

Yours in weepy memory moments,

PS. - If you're wondering what inspired me to write this, please follow this link. This is a dear, dear friend of mine who is an incredible writer.


  1. This post brought happy tears to my eyes because what a happy memory of your dad trying to figure out how to best help his little princess.

    Your description of him reminds me of my dad and I don't want my parents to pass away until my kids are at least 20. I want them to both have a good memory of their grandparents. My dad wears collared shirts with a pocket for his cigarettes and lighter.

  2. My mom died a year ago today. And I read Big Daddy on this day and wept, too. Now I'll go write.

  3. Dear Jane, you know I'm also in the club and at 19 not sure to ever recover. It just becomes a part of who we are and (I think) we sort of live more compassionately because a little part of our heart is filled only with a few memories and not 40 years of hugs. Love you friend!