Sunday, September 19, 2021

Thank You, Dad

Late last month, my dearest dad went home to be with his Lord. He was 94.

The deep and abiding loves of Dad's life were God, his family, and his country. (Next on the list would be planes, trains, and cameras.)

Dad the Marine

Dad was born and grew up in Southern California. As a young man he served with the US Occupation Army in Europe, and later with the Marine Corps in Korea. He then spent 42 happy years working in the aerospace industry, first as a bookkeeper, then carving out a position sourcing parts for the planes he loved.

Here he is at his desk, dapper in suit and tie:

Hard at work in the 60s

Dad worked hard to support his wife and five kids. We didn't have a lot growing up, but we had everything we needed: food, clothing, shelter, faith. Dad and Mom both came from broken families, and were far from perfect parents, but I know they loved us and did the best they could.

Husband and father

Money may have been tight when we were kids, but later on, when we'd all grown up and moved away, Dad delighted in generosity. He loved nothing more than taking the whole family out for a special meal on the rare occasions we were all together. Every Christmas he would send checks to all the kids and grandkids, and order pounds of See's Candy for family members near and far. And more than one of us has a story to tell of surprise checks received in the mail to help cover extraordinary medical expenses. Those meals, those checks, those boxes of See's, were little pieces of Dad's life and years of hard work, transmuted by love into gifts and support for the family he never stopped cherishing.

Walking me down the aisle in 1985

Over the years, that family grew to include many grandkids and great-grandkids. Dad loved to follow their exploits on social media, and download and print the photos they posted. His home was always full of their pictures and drawings.

With grandkids in 2009

Dad was widowed in 2012, and two years later he left California to start a new life in Wisconsin near my sister and me. He loved it here, and when anyone asked him what he thought of the cold weather, he invariably - and proudly - announced that he'd been through winter in Korea, so a Wisconsin winter was nothing to worry about!

At a military band concert, July 2015

Dad enjoyed many excellent adventures in the last seven years of his life, including visits to the EAA fly-in at Oshkosh, a Badger Honor Flight to Washington, DC, a trip in a World War II biplane, a helicopter ride, and many train-related outings. He also went through several major surgeries, somehow bouncing back from them all, and made it through the long Covid lockdown without a murmur.

Capturing autumn color

Dad's love of photography stayed with him to the end. When the day finally came that he could no longer lift his camera, he happily took pictures with his phone.

Here is one of the very last photos from that phone, snapped in June when Dad was in the hospital being diagnosed with the condition that would take his life:

Father's Day, 2021

A little over two months later, he was gone.

~ ~ ~

I've been struggling to write this post for weeks. There was so much more to Dad than my words can convey: his sweetness, his stubbornness, his sense of fun, his delightful voice, his outspokenness, his loyalty, his courage, his stoicism, his devotion to duty, his sense of discipline, his determination, his vast and varied life experience, his astounding knowledge base (watching any WWII movie with Dad was an education in itself; he could point out everything that was right or wrong about the planes, ships, tanks, and armament).

Was he perfect? No. Did I agree with all his opinions, or approve of all his choices? Again, no. Did he  sometimes drive me crazy? Yes (and I'm sure the feeling was mutual). Did he make mistakes when raising us? Absolutely. But somehow the failings and friction don't seem to matter any more. Only the love remains.

I knew when Dad moved to Wisconsin that any day could be his last, so I spent the last seven and a half years telling him I loved him. As I think back over his life, and ponder all that he was and did, I wish I had said more.

If I could talk to him right now, this is what I would say:

Thank you, Dad. Thank you for all your loving care for us over the years, for your service to God and country, and for passing on your Christian faith to your family and those around you.

Thank you for those summer Sunday afternoons at the beach when we were young, and for the family trips to Northern California. Thank you for teaching us to love water and mountains and forests. Thank you for scrimping and saving so you could take five kids to Disneyland once every two years. Thank you for teaching us to work for what we wanted.

Thank you for filling the house with books so that we could learn to love reading. Thank you for sharing your love of planes and trains with us; to this day we all look up whenever we hear an airplane fly over. Thank you for the train layouts under the Christmas tree every year, and even more for the family Bible readings on Christmas mornings.

Thank you for holding my hand when I was little, for picking me up time and again when I fell, for letting me go when the time was right, and for always welcoming me back. Thank you for loving my husband as a son.

Thank you for graciously accepting the limitations of age, and for knowing when it was time to let your kids take charge. Thank you for trusting us.

Thank you for smiling at me through your pain when I held your hand in those final weeks. (I'm so sorry I didn't do that sooner, and more often. I hadn't realized how hungry you might be for a loving human touch.) Thank you for that last big hug, and those last loving words, when your strength was failing and your eyes growing dim, before you sank into the long sleep of your final days on earth. 

I know that you're in Heaven, Dad, and strong and healthy once more. I know that I will see you again one day. But I love you and miss you right now. Thank you again, for everything.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

26 comments:

  1. A beautifully written tribute to a much-loved Dad. I'm so sorry for your loss, please accept my deapest sympathies.
    kumi

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  2. Oh Sue. I' m so very sorry. GOsh you dad sounds 1ike an incredib1e man. Your pain must be great as you carry on. Big hugs to you. THose memories of him in Wisconsin may they give you comfort. The b1og community is a caring one Know we 1ove you

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    1. Thank you, kathy. It has been really hard. I didn't know I would miss him so much. I'm so glad he was here for his last years.

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  3. Really sorry to hear your father has past on. What a touching tribute to him. A truly emotive and wonderful description of your father and his interesting life and how deeply you love him. Fondest regards at this sad time Sue. Amanda x

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  4. Sending you all the love, Sue!!! Beautifully written.

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  5. Dear Sue, such lovely and loving words. I'm so sorry for your loss. Our fathers are the first men in our lives we love and the love you had for your Dad shows in your words. Sending you thoughts of comfort and love.

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    1. Thanks so much, Sharon. What a good point about our dads being the first men we love. There's definitely a special bond between fathers and daughters.

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  6. Thank you for sharing this beautiful part of your life. God bless!
    Sending many hugs.

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  7. What a moving post. Thank you for sharing your Dad’s life with us, he sounds like a very special man.

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  8. I'm so sorry for you loss. Bless you!

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  9. I am so sorry dear friend. What a beautiful post about your dear Father. Thank you for sharing his life with us, and all the photos..now I see where you get your love for photo taking, and your kind and gentle heart, too. As you said, one day face to face you will meet him again in Heaven...until then...all that remains is indeed love...hold onto those lovely memories of him and let them wrap around your heart life a warm hug. I send prayers your way and for your family, too. God Bless you sweet friend. ((hugs))

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    1. Thanks so much, Vicki. I really appreciate the prayers.

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  10. What a wonderful tribute to your beloved dad. You have described him so well that I feel as if I know him! How lovely to have him living close to you and your sister in his last years. I love the photo of him at his desk, so handsome. The photo of you on your wedding day is just beautiful! You do look very much like your dad.

    "Only the love remains". Yes, and that is the essential. Grief is the price we pay for love, but knowing we shall one day be reunited with loved ones is our consolation. Look after yourself in these early, difficult days.

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    1. Thank you, Sandra. We were so glad to have him close by for the last seven years, and to know that he was happy here.

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  11. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss Sue, what a beautiful tribute to your Dad he sounds like a wonderful person. I'm sure he treasured those last year's with you and your sister. Take comfort in all the special memories you have of him and yes you will meet again. Sending hugs and lots of love.💕 Xx

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  12. My deepest condolences. He sounds like someone who enjoyed his life and connected with other people. It must feel very lonely without him. May his memory be a blessing.

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    1. Thank you so much. It does feel lonely without him.

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  13. A beautifully written tribute to your dad. What a blessing to have him close by to be there for him these past 7 years. I'm very sorry for your loss. He certainly lived a long and fulfilled life. Sending you hugs of comfort and blessings of peace.

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  14. Dear Sue,
    I can hardly type this through my tears. What a wonderful post you have written here about your beloved father. As you know, I lost my Dad in Feb. of 2019 to flu. It wasn't Covid then, but it was very sudden and totally unexpected. It really knocked me for a loop.
    Thanks very much for sharing this wonderful tribute to your father and including the great photos also. I do wish I could have met your Dad! And I do know about See's Candies! I once worked with a woman from Redding, California and when she visited her hometown, she would bring them back to Georgia! So good.
    Please know that I am thinking about you. Put up your connected hearts garland that I know you have and remember all the lives that your Dad touched in his lifetime. (If that last sentence makes sense to you, I will be pleased.)
    Take care of yourself!! Love, Kay

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