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Lessons from Dad

My Dad died suddenly and unexpectedly on September 19. When I heard the news it knocked the breath out of me.  It was a terrible shock that I couldn’t process at all for several moments. How could it be true of my dad who was supposed to live forever – or at least until 90 like his mom and grandparents. For some time I was in a daze. As I began preparing some memories to share at Dad’s memorial, it was hard to know what to say. How could I capture what he had been to me and how he had influenced me in just a few minutes? It’s been 10 weeks since his death and my eyes still tear up every day. Some days I blink and they’re gone. Other days they spill over. And other days I’m overcome with body shaking sobs.

Here’s what I shared at the memorial.  

Like a lot of little girls, I always adored my Dad. Now that I’m a parent of two little girls, I realize he demonstrated a lot of parenting techniques (general life lessons, really) that I want to display with my own girls and in my own life.

My Dad and me

1 – Be There

Dad did his best to be there – even when it probably wasn’t his first choice of places to be. My sister and I were on swim team – he got up early, drove us to the meet, and sat around in the desert heat most of the day on a lot of Saturdays for the chance to watch us compete in a handful of 30-60 second events. He went to my T-ball games and helped me with additional practice. In fact, he was so involved with the T-ball team that at the end of year party, he received a little baseball trophy too that he was pretty proud of. He attended my first year band concerts and even sat through private “concerts” that my friend and I put on for my family. He went to the end of year recital for my tumbling class. But it wasn’t just my class – it involved sitting through a multi-hour recital to see my 5 minute performance. He made trips to see me when I was away at college. And after he moved back to Illinois, he drove cross country to visit me and my family in California. When the girls were little, we would FaceTime and he would just sit and watch the girls play. 

Junior High Band
Dad was proud of his twin granddaughters.

2 – Celebrate

I remember his smile and his congratulatory bear hug when he was proud of me: when I stuck the landing in tumbling; when I beat my best time in swimming; when I did well in school; when I learned something new and earned a new badge in Girl Scouts; my wedding day; when my girls were born (he really liked being a grandpa). He loved to see me face my challenges and accomplish my goals.

High School Graduation

3 – Encourage

I didn’t always fit into the stereotype for little girls. But I always believed that with enough hard work, I could do anything I wanted. Dad taught me to target shoot – starting when I was around four. He did a lot of his own auto maintenance and I was his chief assistant. We changed oil, spark plugs, and two water pumps. He helped me with my math homework. I think he would have been really pleased if I had followed in his footsteps and become an engineer. But he never forced the issue and let me find my own way. 

Mechanic’s Assistant

4 – Impact Others

When I shared about Dad’s passing with some high school friends, one said “I have such good memories of your dad. He was always such a sweet and gentle guy. He always seemed happy to have a bunch of silly giggling girls in his house.” She’s right. Our friends were always welcome at our house. It seems like no matter how loud or wild and crazy we got he never minded the house full of giggling girls. Well, we did have to TRY and respect the quiet hours during slumber parties. And for my friends who, for whatever reason, had absent fathers – Dad would do what he could. He gave encouragement, correction, and celebrated their successes too.

When we learned of Dad’s passing, I asked my girls what some of their favorite memories of Grandpa were. Elizabeth shared about how Grandpa would make her give him a hug before he would let her past him. She remembers his smile when he said it. Dad did enjoy playful teasing. Carolyn shared about something from this summer when Grandpa and Grandma arranged for the girls to go horseback riding for the first time. It was a super awesome gift for 10 year old girls who absolutely adore horses. But part of the memory for her was how he was smiling when he told them. Bringing joy to others made him happy — happy enough for a child to notice in the midst of her own excitement.

Storytime with Grandpa

I’ll never feel my Dad wrap me in a big bear hug again. But I’ll always know he loved me. And I can do my best to model the lessons he taught.

Oildorado Days

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