A Grieving Daughter’s Father’s Day Tribute

NOTE: This is the second of two posts by Caitlin about Father’s Day

Dear Dad,

CaitlinAs more distance comes between the present and the time of your death, I get worried. For me, time will always bend so that you were here just yesterday. However, as I get older, I surround myself with more and more people who have never met you. In some ways, this is a relief, because it gives me distance from the trauma that has defined my life. But as I said, sometimes I worry. I worry about a group of friends who never got to be intimidated by your all bark, no bite communication tactics. I worry about marrying someone who won’t understand the legacy of the man who was supposed to walk me down the aisle. When you first passed, I didn’t have to explain what I had lost to those around me. This Father’s Day, as an expression of my grieving,  I have chosen to qualify that loss, for everyone in my life who didn’t get to know you.

My dad had a signature mustache for almost all of his life. When he started to lose his hair from chemotherapy, he shaved it off for the first time since he was 20. We all laughed in relief, because he actually looked way better without that goofy caterpillar on his face.

My dad grew up in a household where you ate as quickly as possible to maximize your food intake, and thus he had lousy table manners. These lousy table manners were passed on to my sister and me. He taught me to eat the cartilage off of spare ribs, the bone marrow from lamb chops, and the tails off of shrimp cocktail. The one warning was “Caitlin, whatever you eat has to be able to make it out the other end.”

Caitlin  and Dad

Caitlin and Roy

At Chinese restaurants, my dad would pick out the bones from his signature fish entrée, so that I could safely ingest it. The first time he deemed that I was old enough to do this on my own, I almost choked on one of the tiny bones. As I spit it out, he patted me on the back and bellowed: “That’s my girl!” as if I had just won a spelling bee or something.

Roy had excellent taste in jewelry and women’s clothes, and zero taste when it came to dressing himself. If he liked one shirt, he bought that shirt in every color. He loved all sports with a passion, but it never bothered him having only daughters. He happily adjusted to mall trips, and he gave a mean French manicure.

My dad was a very impulsive, occasionally irrational man, but he did it all because he wanted to give his family the world. When my sister and I would try clothes on at the mall, he would say, “It’s so hard to choose what you girls should buy, because you look so beautiful in everything.”

Every Valentine’s day he bought presents for Mom, Jolie and me. When I wanted to start going to parties in high school, he would drop me off, park the car in front of the party, and listen to three hours of opera until I wanted to go home. He would then drive my friends to their door, so that they could get home safe. All of my friends said that they couldn’t believe that he had cancer – he was so chipper.

RoyPart of me hates living a life in which I had to lose my father so young. Another part of me is immensely thankful, because 15 years with him was better than a millennium with anyone else. Because of my dad, I got to witness the way a woman should be treated; my mom was the center of his world since he met her at age 15. Because of my dad, I know the importance of family and love.

I’ve detailed jut a few of Roy’s defining characteristics. Anyone who knew him can attest that he was a very unique guy, and probably deserves a biography. Now is not the time for that ambitious effort, but I’ll leave it at this: I live in peace because there was nothing left unsaid when my father died. He had no secrets, and I can imagine everything he would say if he were with us today. When he was here, I woke up every morning knowing how much he loved me. Now that he’s gone, I still wake up every morning with that knowledge.

 

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