A few weeks ago, as I was falling asleep, my memory had a breakthrough. I was suddenly remembering totally random things that I hadn't even thought of in years. At least since my dad died. They were memories of him. At first, it was just one, and I started thinking more, woke myself up completely and grabbed my notebook. The more I thought, the more came to me. I wrote down six short pages of memories of my dad. It was great. Most of them were good. I felt so much better and slept better than I had in weeks.
Here are some of the memories that I have of my dad:
We were at a party for one of my mother's coworkers in Mission Viejo, CA. At the time, there was hardly any development in the area, and it was surrounded by canyons. I was pretty young – 5, 6 maybe? This is the last time I remember my dad calling me the nickname he had for me when I was little – Monkey. We were having such a great time and the sunset was so gorgeous. He picked me up and put me on his shoulders (I think this was the last time he did this, too). He asked me if I was having a good time (You havin' a good time, Monkey?”) I said yes and he told me that he was, too.
When I was really little, giving good night kisses was called giving “night nights.” I had forgotten all about that until my dad was dying. Every night, he wouldn't lay down on his bed, until I gave him “night nights” on his bald little head. It made me cry every time, because it was so sweet and innocent. It makes me cry now, too.
Dad had this plaid jacket, well it was really black wool with thin rainbow stripes, a light brown leather collar and purple satin lining. He wore it all the time when I was a kid. As we all got older, he traded in the jacket for other, more expensive, warmer ones. That jacket stayed in the back of the closet. When he was sick, we took him out in the front yard so he could see the plants (he was a gardener). I wore the jacket because I liked it and because it was a little cold out. He saw it on me and made a comment about needing to get it clean so I could wear it. I told him it was unnecessary, because I kinda liked the way it smelled (like him). Even though the purple satin inside is starting to come apart, I still have that jacket.
When I was little, I swore I was a boy. I wanted to be just like my daddy. I tried to urinate standing up, even though I was told repeatedly that girls don't do that. I used to try to help my dad do yard work. Whenever he would get too hot out there, he would take off his shirt and throw it over the garage door (hey, it was the 70's!), so there I was, doing the same thing.
Dad was a hippie. In just about every sense of the word. He drove a red VW Bus with brown and white curtains. We used to go to play frisbee golf over off of Golden West St. and Edwards in Huntington Beach. Every time we would go there, we had to drive down Edwards hill. Edwards hill is not too long, but it's pretty steep. Dad used to drive as fast as he safely could down that hill so I could yell Whee!!! from the backseat, and feel like I was on a rollercoaster.
The Orange County Swap Meet used to be one of the best in the area. It used to be full of original things in every booth. Now, about every third booth is the same. Still, once in a while, you run across some cool stuff. My family and I would go every once in a while, especially if we knew they would have something we needed. We always had fun. Dad loved to buy stuff or give stuff to mom and I. Whether it be a coke, a beer, something to eat, or a random trinket that made us smile. It seemed to please him to no end. One time, we went near Veteran's day and he donated $1 and got a little red plastic flower. He gave it to me. This was 6 years ago. I still have it. And it still makes me smile about how happy he was to attach it to my purse.
He was quite the jokester. Not always in the best way, but you learned to deal with it. Or at least tried to see the humor in what he was saying. When I was sick, I lost a good majority of my hair. Well, I was pretty bald. Dad liked to tease me about it, and I joked about it as well. It was a way to get through the pain and keep a positive attitude. When I had no hair, I sat in front of a baby picture of myself. He used to say it was funny that there I was, bald, 28 and sitting in front of a bald baby picture of me. When I was done with treatment, my hair started to grow in very quickly. When it was straight, it stuck straight up. I wear glasses and I still hadn't lost all the steroid weight. One day, dad was on the phone, telling someone how I was doing. He said I looked like Howie Long. We both had a pretty good laugh about that.
When dad was sick, he didn't have much of a life. If he wasn't going to radiation treatments, or chemo, he was sitting at home, watching ESPN. Usually I would be home from work before my mom, and as soon as I would walk in the door, dad would ask me about all the news at work. He always wanted to know the gossip about everyone. He didn't know half the people that I worked with, but he still loved the stories. Same when I was in school. He would wait up at night for me to get home, so I could tell him about my guided imagery or History of Rock Music classes. He loved to hear what I learned.
I was in band in Middle School and High School. At first he wasn't sure about it. But I loved it and he grew to love it. When I was in Seventh Grade, we got the opportunity to play with about 100 other bands at Dodger Stadium. I gave two tickets to the game to my dad for his birthday. He loved baseball. He was so excited. He sought me out in our practice area (the only parent to do that), to tell me good luck. I'm afraid my reaction wasn't the best. I was terribly embarrassed, and later said something rude to him when my parents came into the stands tell me that they were going home. When I got to high school, he wait up for me after football games to talk to me about the music and how I never should give it up and how wonderful it was. It took me years to realize how truly sweet this was.
I didn't know that he loved Disneyland as much as I did, until I started working there at 19. About four months after I started, he and I went to the park for fun. He wanted to go on every ride, and took me out to a fabulous dinner. We had the best time. It was so fun, and that's when he told me it doesn't matter how old you get, as long as you are young at heart, you will always be young. As an adult, it's hard to always remember that, but I did marry someone who has the same outlook. Every year when I worked there, I would set my parents up with a hotel room at the Disneyland Hotel, and they would spend a couple days going to the park. Even after I stopped working there, we would still go at least once a year. Usually at the beginning of December. Even up until he died, he wanted to go. If he was unable to go, like when California Adventure opened, he would wait for me to get home with all the stories and live through that. It made him happy, and he would find things that he thought that we would like and buy pins and hats and little fun souvenirs for mom and I. And for himself. He and mom had a huge curio cabinet that was filled with Disney super collectibles.
Dad loved carnivals and county fairs. He taught me to play skee ball, and the water balloon gun game, and the dime in the cup game. It was always fun to go with him. He wanted to ride all the rides in the midway. We rode a Ferris Wheel once and he swung the cart almost until he got kicked off. Then he got on the Zipper, but had no one to ride with, so he asked this little girl to ride with him, and she did. She ended up saying, “Please Mister, stop twirling the cage!” He was like a little kid.
My dad, ever the fan of music, was sitting in the kitchen when I got ready for my first concert. I was going with a bunch of my friends to see The Steve Miller Band. I really didn't know many of their songs or anything. I was going for the experience. When I came downstairs before leaving, he turned to me and said, “Fly like an Eagle!” I looked at him, kind of puzzled, and then realized it was a Steve Miller song. I laughed, because that was so like him. He always encouraged me to find the meaning in music, especially in lyrics. He would talk to me for hours and hours about it. It was one of the few things we really had in common. One morning, I was standing in the kitchen, and he came in and asked me if I had heard of a band called Crash Test Dummies. I looked at him (he must not have been listening to the correct station at the time), and told him that I had bought that CD the night before. He laughed and asked me for a recording of it. He loved it. Same with Nirvana. We could really connect with music.
Speaking of music, one day he was talking about Elton John and The Beatles, and all the classic rock. I had just developed a taste for all these classic rock bands (Although I had been in love with The Beatles for years), and he was trying to teach me. He made me a mixed tape. He told me how he always wished that he had the creativity to have written “Your Song” by Elton John and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” for my mom. Maybe he was also trying to tell me how he felt about her, too.
During the summer when I was in my early teens, there wasn't much to watch on the TV. Cable had just come out and we didn't have it. So, I watched whatever was on. One day, I assume I had been watching “All in The Family.” When my parents came home from work, they asked what I did all day, and I decided to tell them exactly what was on the show. I thought it was hysterical, and did Edith's voice calling Aaaaarchie. I had never seen my dad laugh at my jokes before. He was laughing so hard at this that he spit out his beer. I was told that my imitation was spot on, and for years I was able to make him laugh at my impersonations. After that he made a point to always tell me what a good sense of humor and that he thought I was pretty damn funny. That was a high honor with dad. He loved the funny.
In 8th grade, we had try outs to be able to sing at graduation. I had been accepted into choir at my future high school for the next year, so I was feeling brave. I wanted to sing “Never Surrender” by Corey Hart. Mom and I discussed it and decided that it was probably not the most appropriate song for graduation. So, I found “Graduation Day” by The Beach Boys. I still don't think I have ever heard this actual song. I practiced and practiced. But I wouldn't sing out loud in front of dad. I was afraid of the criticism. Finally one day he told me that no matter what, if I got to sing at graduation, he would probably wind up crying, because he would be so proud. I didn't end up being one of the chosen ones.
As most dad's are, mine was pretty protective. When I was 19, I moved in with a friend of mine, who ended up not being as good a friend as I thought. He got hooked on Crystal Meth, and became violent and mean. And he took advantage of me and my friends. It was pretty awful. The last straw was when he hit me in the head with a beer bottle. I went to talk to my mom about some personal stuff, and dad asked me how it was going with the apartment. I told him about what this boy had done, and how work was. He went to bed soon after that, but called me the next day to tell me that he was moving me out that weekend. He brought two of his friend over, one an ex-drug addict, the other an ex-con. They never roughed my roommate up, but the threat was there. I saw him years later, and he apologized to me for all the wrong doings. I showed him a picture of my sickly father, and he was still terrified of him. My family went to the county fair, and while walking through one of the arts buildings, we walked by a man who was selling bronzed baby shoes. At that time, I had been working really hard on my weight. I was starting to look really good. The man yelled out at me, “Is this your first or second?” Meaning, my “pregnancy.” Dad caught it and was about to go back and show him what for. I had to hold him back. Dad was never a violent person. So that was very rare. But it still gave me warm fuzzies.
This still kills me. When I first moved back home because I got cancer, he kept me up one night because he wanted to talk. It had been quite some time since we had had a heart to heart. He started to cry and told me that he would do anything if he could have taken the cancer away from me. It was brought up at his funeral. Our next door neighbor spoke and said how dad told him that he would give anything to be able to take my cancer and give it to himself instead. I still sometimes wonder if that's what happened.
When I had cancer, I had terrible concentration and memory problems. We had had the same phone number for over 23 years, and I was having trouble remembering it. I couldn't remember how to spell my name occasionally. During the Christmas season, I went to the mall to pick up some gifts. Dad had given me some money, some he owed me for something and some, he wanted me use to pick something up for him. He was a gardener, and often received gifts from his customers at Christmas. This year, the table was covered with home made cookies. I came home and gave him his change. He asked me how much stuff cost, and what happened to the money. I sat there with a paper and pencil trying to figure out what happened to the money. Within ten minutes, I still couldn't add or subtract and I got so frustrated I started crying. He was so confused and he felt so awful that I couldn't remember anything. He looked at me and offered me a cookie. He thought it would make me feel better. His reaction did make me laugh.
Dad was not very affectionate, it was just the way he was. When he was sick, I got a mouse. I named him Mousie. Dad loved Mousie. But because he was a found, but friendly mouse, we had a makeshift bird cage. He never tried to get out. Until dad thought he needed a friend. I bought Fang. So called Fang because he bit me when I tried to take him out of the box. He taught Mousie how to get out of the cage. I watched them do it one night. So, we were going out to dinner one night, and mom said she didn't want to come home to two missing mice in her house. So we put the cage on the porch, so if they decided to leave, they could run away outside. When we came home from dinner, the mice were gone. We saw one of them running down the side of the driveway. Dad wanted to go after him, but I told him no, and for some reason I started to cry. Dad opened his arms to me, offering a hug. I think he was just as upset as me. For some stupid reason, I ran past him into my mom's arms and sobbed.
My parents loved to travel. When I was 8 or so, they finally decided that they had enough money to finally go on a honeymoon. They went to Hawaii. And fell in love with the islands. When I was ten, they took me to Maui. They were so excited. When we got off the plane, our friends put lei's around our necks, and my dad came over to me, and said to me, “Welcome to Maui!” And gave me a big fat kiss. I was probably embarrassed, but it was sweet and a really fun trip.
My dad's birthday is April 5. He would have been 59 this year. I really miss him. But I know that he's around. I'm happy that some of these memories have inspired some other memories. I like to think that dad would be proud of me and who I have become. That he would like my husband and still be great fun to hang out with.
I miss you daddy!