Father’s Day Without My Father

Today is the first father’s day without my dad. He passed on July 10th, 2018. The first that I will not either see or speak to him. This dates to my earliest memories. Through college, law school travels, and personal troubles, I picked up the phone.

He was not a big gift guy, but when he moved to Dallas in 2001, as much as we could, there would be fathers day dinners and lunches. Still, always the call. Always the asks. Am I doing ok?  Do I need any money?  I never turned down the cash. 

Last year, as he approached the end, dementia also took its’ toll. I walked across the street to his house where he was winding down in home hospice. I sat in my usual spot next to his bed. I held his hand. I put my mouth up as close to his left ear as I could. I whispered. “Happy Father’s Day, dad. I love you”. He did not respond, but I could feel his grip on my hand tighten ever so slightly. I’m told that the hearing is the last sense to go as death approaches. I know he heard me.

There are so many things I will miss with him.

I will miss our trips to Vegas. I inevitably lost every cent I had without exception. He would slide a few chips over to me with his wink, trademark grin, and standard, jovial refrain, “you’ll get my bill in the mail.” 

The long road trips to the Catskills or the “Jewish Riviera” we took every summer in my early teens. We always stopped to see his mom on our way out of town. My brother Mark and I fought over who got to hold the candy so it would last the entire journey.  Mark always won out. The candy was always gone.

My long runs from our home in Mt. Lebanon to Oakland, where I attended Pitt Law School.  I took a breather when I arrived at his auto-trim shop, Regency Products, five miles into the run. He never wrapped his head around my desire to run thirteen miles, including going over Mt. Washinton, instead of taking the bus. He would open the 1950’s soda machine with a key. We would catch up in the waiting room on the ripped up, grease and oil stained couch that had probably been there since the Korean War. He would show me the antique cars they worked on. I am not a car guy but my dad, even with just one eye, could look at any older car passing on the street and tell you the make and model year.

I will miss him trying to parallel park with that one eye(he lost the other one in an industrial accident). He hit the front bumper of the car behind him. He then tapped the rear bumper of the vehicle in front. He turned his head back to us and winked with a “close enough.”

The conversation we had after I opened up to him about my mental health struggles will remain etched in my mind and heart. He said, “I love you, move in with me. We will get through this together”. I did, and we did.

I will miss traveling the world with him on ships. My dad loved to cruise. My wonderful older brother made sure he had those opportunities after my dad worked his entire for one purpose-to make sure we had them.

I miss the feeling that he is right across the street from me. That I can go over any time day or night and it will be no different than the very first time. Sometimes I still feel that then realize he is gone. Emptiness fills the void.

I miss his voice. I have saved voicemails, and we have video, but with live conversation comes warmth and connection. It’s not the same, but it’s all I have. I will listen, watch, and cry today. I will go see him. I will play some Frank Sinatra at his grave.  My father’s day gift to him. There will be no bill in the mail. My dad gave for love. Love of family. Love of life. One of his favorite sayings was:

Today is as young as you will ever be. Live like it.”

I understand that not everyone has a relationship with his/her father to have context for this. If you do, pay that bill early with the connection. Tell your dad you love him. What my dad says about living life? Do that. For so many years, I did not get it. I do now.

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