I have so much to be thankful for. So much more than I could ever articulate or capture in a blog post. Even while I’m drafting this entry in my bedroom, I hear my boyfriend, his son, and our niece and nephew giggle over a movie they are watching in the living room. Between the laughter, I hear them recounting their favorite parts of the festival we attended today, and every couple of minutes my sweet dog, Stanley, punctuates their snickering with a good squeak of his toy from behind the couch. The distinct smell of “taco night” is still strong in our apartment even though the dishes have been done for hours. My life is full. I am blessed.
Of all these blessings, this year I am choosing to document some of my simplest and sweetest memories of my father. Dad was unexpectedly taken from us this summer, and while my heart is broken that he is gone, I am abundantly grateful for his love, his lessons, and all the sweet, sweet memories.
The Haunting on Glenmeadow Drive
Like most small kids, my little brother and I loved to play good guy/bad guy games. We were four and five, respectively, and it was his turn to be bad guy. He had me tied up with a jump rope in a bedroom closet and aggressively robbed me at finger point, shouting demands in his best “bad guy” voice. It was all in good fun until Dad, doing some handy work in the attic, heard us playing through the ceiling vents. Dad threw the breaker switch, knocking out the power in that part of the house, leaned facedown into the vent in the bedroom, and let out his loudest, scariest “MUWAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!” Toby ran screaming and probably scarred for life, while I tried furiously to squirm out of the triple-knotted jump ropes. Terror doesn’t get more pure than that, and Dads just don’t laugh harder than that.
Roughhousing With Class
When we played, we played classy. Tummies had to be settled, all dangerous furniture was moved out of the living room, and my Dad blasted his record (yes, as in a RECORD) of the William Tell Overture through my parents’s turntable with surround sound audio. Games of choice included, but were not limited to, Bunkin’ Bronco, Tick Tock, and of course, the Tickle Fight. Dad would take my siblings and I (four total) all on at once. The Universe stopped and bedtime was forgotten about. We would play until our cheeks were burning and our sides were sore from laughter, and after awhile, without us even knowing it, our eyelids would start to fall. He’d gather us all up at the same time (he was the strongest man in the whole, wide world), and drop us each into our respective beds with a kiss on the forehead. I’ll never sleep so well again.
The Playground Dad Built
I had friends with cool swingsets, or even a neat pool slide, but no one had a backyard like ours. Each piece of that backyard was
truly assembled with love, sweat and tears. There was the seesaw Dad built with his own hands. Kids from all over the neighborhood came just to take a turn on that seesaw.
We also had the Sesame Street swingset, because it just doesn’t get cooler than swinging with Big Bird. And we had the four-seater spinny thing we never really knew what to call. We just called it “Mayonnaise-Mustard-Ketchup” because it was white, yellow and red, but it was AWESOME! And the tire swing, you just can’t have enough fun on a tire swing.
Then there was the beautiful sandbox Dad built us from scratch. It really was a work of art, handcrafted and flawless. But before he installed the masterpiece he worked so hard on, he bought every color of paint he could find, gave us each a paint brush, and just let us go, and somehow, it was a little more beautiful when we were done.
Dad’s New Best Friend
We had a relatively strict no pet policy growing up. We were able to weasel our way into a couple of small rodents here and there, even ducks, but Dad was particularly adamant about no dogs. We would beg, and we would cry, but Dad would squint his eyes and curl his lips under, and we knew his decision was final.
That all changed in my sixth grade year. Each day my Mom came to pick me up from school, my little brother already in tow, and each day she saw the neglected litter of new puppies born at the house across the street. They were dirty, flea-ridden, hungry, and just so cute. One afternoon Mom hit her breaking point. Instead of just pulling up in front of the school for me to jump in the van, she parked the car and hopped out with my brother. With a determined look on her face, she marched across the street and knocked on the dog owner’s door. A brief chat and twenty dollars later, we had a puppy.
We played with him all afternoon in the front yard. He was frightened and excited at the same, and so were we. How would Dad react when he got home? When Dad finally pulled into the driveway that evening, we hid the puppy underneath a blanket and between boxes in the garage. We tried so hard to keep our faces straight and act normal, but Dad could of course sense the giddy anxiety in us all, and the frightened puppy shaking violently beneath the sheet didn’t help much either. Dad glanced across all of our “straight” faces, looked down at the quivering sheet, and pulled it back with a swift, hard tug. Dad couldn’t even be mad. In that moment, he knew he had just met his new best friend. He named him Rufus, and that second began a 15 year journey the twosome would enjoy together, side-by-side every step of the way.
I am so grateful for my father, the time we had, and all the sweet memories. These are by no means all of my memories of my father, or even my favorite. They are just the ones that are making me smile today. Thanks, Dad.