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My Dad

I was surfing around. Feeling kinda lost. I ended up back on my own page. Weird. Anyway, I reread my 100 Things b/c I just really, really like them. I'm so pleased with myself when I read them. I don't know why. Just am. You should read them if you haven't already. Then, for kicks, to see if I'd accomplished anything recently that I wasn't aware of, I clicked on my Before I Die list. And there were a couple of comments. From this kid who probably wasn't even alive yet when I graduated high school.

He said this:
Visit my dad’s grave in Syracuse. --- Why haven't you done this as yet?

(And dude: I'm ignoring that whole "why not work out" comment. Fuck that.)

You know my comments aren't set up to email me. So if I have a response to one, I just post my own comment. If some techy out there knows a different way, I accept tutorials.

So I responded with a comment.

And then I erased it.

And made another one.

And erased it.

This went on for several minutes. Smart ass comments. Logical comments. Explanatory comments.

Finally I realized that I didn't have an answer.

I don't know why I haven't been back since his funeral. Maybe I'd rather spend my vacays on a Caribbean island. Maybe it's just never been a priority. Maybe I have issues I need to take up with my psychiatrist.

So I closed the comments box and just decided that I want to write about my dad.

My dad's name was Richard. He was born in 1917 in Washington, DC. He used to ride the streetcar to school. He was of the generation that used the nickname "Dick" for Richard. So to his friends, he was always "Dick." Even as a teenager I never thought that was weird or funny.

My dad's mom died when he was 13. His older brother came and got him from school and told him. A sudden stroke killed her.

His dad lived in a bedroom in our basement before he died. I swear I remember that, but my mom says I wasn't born yet. He had a series of strokes. That's how my dad died, too.

My dad was in ROTC in high school in Arlington, Virginia. He joined the army for WWII. He was at Normandy, but since he was a truck driver he was there D+2 (two days after D-Day). He was bringing in supplies. He served mostly in France during the war.

He was married with two little girls when he went off to war. When he came home, they divorced. I hear war does that to a lot of families.

Later he married my mom. She was 24 years younger than him.

Dad was a highway engineer for the federal government. He went to George Washington University on the GI Bill. His office building was on the corner across the street from what is now the Air & Space Museum. It was on the parade route for the presidential inaugural parades, so we used to watch from there. Because it's awfully cold in Washington DC in January. And my parents were big on historical shit like that. The only parade I can remember was Jimmy Carter and Rosalyn in that bright green coat walking the route.

My Dad was more cultured than my mom. She grew up in a tiny, backwoods town of Louisiana. They used to take us to Army-Navy band concerts on the Capitol steps. And performances at the Kennedy Center. When people came to visit, Dad would drive them around the city sightseeing. As a kid, I always thought he made up that word.

In 1976, we went to the fireworks at the Washington Monument. Otherwise we watched them for our side of the river in order to avoid the crowd. We almost lost my dad trying to get on a bus when it was over. That was the most frightened I'd ever been in all my 10 years.

Dad retired when I was 11 and we moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Talk about a culture shock. For him, too, I think. I think that's when he started dying.

My parents split up three years later. I lived with my mom for a while, but then she moved away. I lived with Dad most of my high school years. He was a great dad. He went on all our choir trips with me. Retired and all. He got up every morning and made me breakfast and packed my lunch. Breakfast was either cereal or canned biscuits with sausage. Lunch was often peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Dad wasn't much of a cook. But he loved me.

After I graduated high school, I moved away. Three years later, my younger brother was the last to leave. Dad had already had a couple strokes by then. With none of us there, he deteriorated fast. By the time I was 20 he was in a nursing home. I hated going back to see him. It's so sad to see your parent with no dignity. His mind wasn't right by then. He would talk like he was back in the war. Other times he seemed to know exactly what was up. I'd rather prefer to think he wasn't aware.

When I got the call that my dad had died, I didn't even know he was in Syracuse. My half-sister (from the first marriage) had air-ambulanced him to her home. Which was OK with me, since none of use (from the second marriage) still lived on the coast. I'm glad he wasn't alone when he died.

We all flew to Syracuse for the funeral, even my mom. We thought it was good that he'd be buried there. We were all so young and none of us had really set down any roots. We didn't know where we'd end up. My half-sister had been in Syracuse my whole life. We buried him on a hillside. Some soldiers presented the flag to my brother. He had a very nice frame made for it and it's on his mantle even today.

A year or so later, my half-sister up & moved to California.

So, why haven't I been back? I don't know. I don't want to spend vacation time and money on a trip to Syracuse? I have no family there? I'm afraid of what I'll see? I'm afraid I'll be overcome by overwhelming sadness?

Maybe I put my dad on a pedestal b/c he was old. B/c he died early in my life. Maybe he wasn't the perfect, naive, sad old man I remember him to be. But damn, I loved him. And I miss him.

Your dad was a great man, the type of dad all girls long to have. His time with you may have been short, but it was quality. I will always remember him.

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