I am slowly pushing the almost nightmare last year of his life aside and reaching, searching, sifting for the memories of the good times.
My dad had the prettiest smile I have ever seen. He was dark complected, black haired and brown eyed. When we lived in Texas everyone thought he was of Mexican descent, and when we lived in Crete they thought he was Greek. He would laugh about it, especially when they tried to speak Spanish or Greek to him and then not understand when he tried to explain to them that he didn't understand. The situation created a comedy of errors at times.
He was an accomplished steel guitarist and songwriter. I have an entire folder of songs that he wrote.. One day when I was fourteen we sat down together and wrote a song about the 50's; die hanging on the rear view mirror of a '57 Chevy and rock and roll music. I helped him with most of the lyrics. Sadly, that is the one song I can't find, but the memory of us writing it together is seared into my heart.
I loved him more than I think I have ever loved a man. He loved me back in the same fierce way. He was my protector, I was his only little girl. He was loving, kind, solid, dependable, funny, and calm. He took care of his family always, through the ups and downs, though the valleys and the mountain tops. He took his responsibilities seriously. Even in the end, while the Alzheimer's quickly ravaged him, he was worried if Mom and I had money, if we had eaten, When I fed him at the V.A Center he would want me to reassure him that I had eaten before he would even take a bite of his food.
He was not showy or overly verbal, but he made sure he hugged me and my brother as often as he could, through our teen years and well into our adult years. At the end of a hug he would whisper, "I love you" into my ear. He wasn't perfect; he was in all ways human and he taught me how to be human. He taught me how to make mistakes, how to fall down, then how to get back up, learn and move on. This has served me well. I am largely what and who I am due to his love and his role in being every inch a "Dad" to me and my brother.
I'm still working it out, still cry myself to sleep some nights, often find tears slipping and rolling down my face at unexpected times and places. I know this is grief and that it has to be felt, no matter how much it bloodies and tears my gut apart. No matter how much it feels as if razor wire has curled up in the deepest recesses of my chest and is slicing me into tiny slivers. I know the pain will lessen, I know I have a life to live, things to do and places to see, music to hear, books to read, words to write. That is what Dad would have wanted. I will honor him by living my life in the best way I know how. I will be forever changed by this experience. But isn't that what love does anyway?
Goodnight, Daddy, I love you..