Recent discussions with a friend about family has got me thinking and I wanted to talk a little bit about mine:
He was the first man in my life. He was gruff and sarcastic. He was wise and funny. He was my hero – my dad.
I don’t know if I was exactly the apple of his eye, but he only called me Babe. And if I’m not mistaken none of my other siblings got sips of his beer either.
His name was John but everybody called him Lucky because when he was young he missed by seconds being beaned by a 50 lb block of ice. Way back then, he delivered ice for ‘ice boxes’ and when he parked his truck on a 45 degree hill and jumped out, that block of ice clunked into the driver’s seat.
He claimed to have been an original hell’s angel who siphoned gas from tractors with his buddies while they were growing up in Pennsylvania. He also played in a country-western band, wrote for a small newspaper, repaired tv’s and apparently had a couple of brawls in bars when he was young, hence some missing teeth.
Though by the time we met he was just Daddy. The guy who loved black coffee, wheaties and Hillbilly Bread (yes there really was such a thing). The guy who ate every ‘experiment’ in food that I prepared while I was learning to cook. No matter how nasty he would smile and say, “it’s good, Babe.” Even that horrible chop suey that tasted like salt and grease.
We rarely disagreed on anything and I was constantly being told by my mother that I was just like him. A compliment of the highest order in my world. In fact, when I beat up Claudia Dick (yep, that really was here name) and she scratched the hell outta my face he said: “Does she look worse than you?”
“Oh yeah,” said I.
He smiled and told me to go play.
On summer nights, after we were supposed to be sleeping – Mr Softie the ice cream truck would roll down our street. We could hear his little song playing from the truck’s speakers. The screen door would open and close. The truck would stop. And a few minutes later, we’d hear him going off again – looking for late night ice cream consumers.
Not long after, Dad would open the door to our room and say, “Girls, are you awake?” And of course we were. “Come down here.” And of course we did. And there’d be two giant chocolate ice cream cones waiting for us. We’d sit in the dark livingroom watching tv and eating our cones with our dad. He’d say ‘don’t tell your brothers and don’t tell your mother.” Our lips were sealed.
When I left to move to California my mother was very upset. Perhaps even angry with me. She didn’t want me to go and I felt so guilty. But Dad said, “you have to follow your dreams, honey. You just don’t have anything in your life without them.”
Even though we lived 3,000 miles apart, we always remained close. Whenever something worried him that he saw on the news, he called to see if I was okay. If there was an earthquake he was on the phone to me within seconds of it. He visited many times and was the consumate tourist and we always had a blast. And no matter how old I was, I was always his little girl.
The day he died was simply the worst day of my life. Though it’s been many years, I still miss him completely. Whenever anything good happens I always want to call him and tell him about it. Whenever something bad happens I want to call him and talk to him about it. And then I remember….I can’t.
I think about him everyday. I thank God that I had him in my life. He will always be my first and best hero.