On Friday, we had a Veteran's Day assembly at my school. I was on the committee to organize and run the assembly this year- the first time for all three teachers in charge. Thanks to the teachers who set the precedent before us, it wasn't a difficult assembly to plan, but based on the personal connection I had, it was a little difficult day for me.
Because my dad was a veteran.
And the assembly was on his birthday.
And he passed away when I was fourteen years old.
I'm not writing this post to ask for sympathy, for acknowledgement, or for attention.
I'm writing this to honor my dad.
After realizing how tough it was to talk about him on Friday morning in front of hundreds of people (my short speech may have been a little incoherent or awkward at some point), I realized that I need to talk about him more. I need to share everything I loved and cherished about him......especially with those who never knew him. I need to open up that part of myself a little more. It's much easier to stay closed off to those things that make us uncomfortable, sad, nervous, or vulnerable. Easy isn't always best, though.
So I was thinking about what I wanted to write about my dad, and it reminded me of something that my sister and I did after he passed away. We decided to make a list of things that we didn't want to forget about him. I searched through my storage bins tonight and found that list.....and I thought I'd share part of the list with you. Some are so random and I find it funny that I thought those were important to remember, but these are all written by a teenage version of myself, so random is not surprising. But these are all word-for-word what I wrote.
Just a little background so some of this makes sense-- my parents got divorced when I was young and my dad eventually moved into a mobile home park. Even though I lived with my mom, they had joint custody and we were able to see my dad often...at least every weekend. So when I talk about "the trailer"-- that was my dad's house-- and I have many happy memories of the weekends we would spend with him there.
*Dad was in the army. He was in Louisville, Kentucky. Dad and Jeff used to always argue about how to pronounce Louisville.
*He liked to watch sports, news, and game shows. Even though he didn't enjoy most of the shows that I liked (comedy sitcoms, soaps), he still let me watch them when I was there.
*My dad's favorite movie was "Daddy Long Legs" with Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron. He watched it 50-60 times and I watched it 40-something times. I never get bored with it.
*On the first night in the trailer, I couldn't sleep. When I got up, I walked past the "little room" where Dad was sleeping and he saw me and asked what was wrong. I told him and he got up and got me a glass of Squirt and we talked for a while and then went to sleep.
*Dad used to sleep on the floor in the back bedroom on a mattress or sleeping bag next to the bed. I usually would go on the side where he was because he would hold my hand at night. Even though I could tell this was uncomfortable sometimes, he still didn't seem to mind.
*We used to play lots of games, mostly card games and board games, on the weekends.
*Dad played lots of solitaire and drank lots of water in the morning before us kids got up.
*Dad would have to put both of his reading glasses on to read the newspaper.
*My dad always had a stuffed-up nose and he used handkerchiefs instead of Kleenex.
*Usually when Dad stopped off at the gas station, he'd let us get a treat.
*Dad used to always use a shoe horn to put on his shoes. For Christmas one year, I got him a shoe horn with a lint brush on it. I still have it.
*He got laid off from CWC Textron when they went out of business. He worked as an accountant in the office.
*On Father's Day and Christmas he didn't want us to get him presents unless they were very inexpensive (under $1). Probably because after he got laid off from work he didn't have enough money to buy us presents. But he gave us lots of love and the joy of being with him and you can't put a price on love and happiness. It's priceless. (seriously-- I wrote those exact words. And now I'm crying.)
*My dad was 55 years old when he died. I will never forget him, always love him, and remember all about him that I can remember. (again.....a fourteen year old wrote this....I didn't realize how strong I was until now)
On this day, which is officially Veteran's Day.....I'm not only thankful for all veterans and the great sacrifice that they made or are making for our country, but most of all for the one I knew best and miss the most.
Love you, Dad.