This I Believe
One of my Dad’s favorite stories was “Out of Africa,” by Isaak Dineson. In that story, the main character says at a most difficult time of her life, “This is not what I thought would happen to me now.” I’ve been feeling that way for five years now.
I miss my Dad. He was good company. He was my friend, my guide, my mentor, my best critic and my greatest fan. My whole life, we learned from each other. He was kind and quiet and generous and funny. He taught me to work hard and love well and try my best at everything. He gave away everything he had — usually to his kids. He gave us everything.
Sometimes while I’m having my first cup of coffee, I remember how Mom and Dad would dance in our kitchen some mornings while we were getting ready for school, while our dog, Andy, pulled at Dad’s pant leg. We’d laugh and Andy would bark, and they’d ignore all of us for a few moments while they looked into each other’s eyes. It’s an image that I summon when I’m feeling angry or sad, and it always makes me feel better.
Dad was always courtly to women, because he found women mysterious and beautiful, and every woman was beautiful in his eyes, especially my mother. I remember one time he pointed to her and said to me, “I have not awakened a single morning since I met her and not loved this woman.”
He loved music, especially Broadway tunes and Irish ballads. He loved chocolate. He loved a good book. He loved the History Channel and West Wing. He loved a party, especially when he got presents.
He loved our dog, Andy, and he loved the way that dog and my mother were devoted to each other. In fact, one time my sister asked him, “If you could be someone other than yourself, who would you be?” and he answered, “Andy. I’m not kidding.”
He could make Mom laugh, even when she didn’t want to.
We all know that we can’t choose our parents, and I’m sure many would choose differently if they could, but our tribe of six knows we got lucky — we got him and Mom.
The poet Robert Frost said, “I can sum up all I know about life in three words: It goes on.”
It does, indeed, with or without our loved ones, and whether we’re ready to be without them or not. I wasn’t ready to be without my dad, and grief is the most terrifying emotion I’ve ever experienced. But there are a handful of things that Dad taught me that have helped me through these past five years. I hold these things tightly in my hand and in my heart and I pull them out and recite them and remind myself often, so I don’t ever forget who I am or why I’m here or what tribe I belong to: Work hard; love with all my heart; share everything; listen to music; dance with my husband in the kitchen; eat good chocolate; read good books; and laugh real hard, even when I don’t want to.
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