My dad died almost a year ago to this day. He died just after he turned 89. No one, not even my dad… believed that he would live as long as he did. Outwardly, he was not always a smiley kind of a guy …little things bothered him…kids running on his lawn, taxes, any Republican president, my mom not listening to him, any of his kids not doing things the way he wanted them done. I think he would sit and ponder all of these grievances whether they were real or imagined. He would mumble and sputter and grumble and then he would take himself up the stairs and go to bed…this was always before 5:00 pm…by 8:00 that same night he would be back downstairs again…drinking his glass of milk and munching on his baked goods…the day old ones from his favorite grocery store…where he would spend an hour looking at each package to make sure he got the ones with the most white icing. His grumpiness was gone and he was back in the conversation with the rest of us.
My dad had his flaws…but deep down inside he was the very best of men. He loved his family. He adored his mother and never truly left her side until she died. He adored his sisters…he would always visit my Aunt Annie and talk with her and my Uncle Joe for hours…my Aunt Jennie made him the cookies that he loved and that my mom did not have the patience to make. He loved my mom and took care of her until the day she died.
He loved his children. He was always the happiest when we were all around him. He loved to barbecue and grill and cook. He loved to grocery shop…even when he was in assisted living…and my sister took him grocery shopping…he would spend hours examining each fruit and vegetable. He had favorite stores and favorite days to buy things. He was his most happiest when he was out in his world shopping…and he was forever excited by the stuff he brought home. He loved his animals…he always told me the story of his very first puppy…and how much he loved that dog…when his dog died and his dad buried it…my dad sneaked outside and put a wooden cross on his dog’s grave…he said my Polish grandma was so mad at him that he was spanked and told to remove the cross…but he wouldn’t do it. He loved to feed birds and squirrels and he loved to watch them…he and my mom would sit on the front porch for hours and just talk and talk about their “hood”…and then they would each eat big bowls of ice cream and that was their day.
He loved his garden. He planted everything you could imagine. He would carefully examine seed catalogs…and plant more than he and my mom could ever use…but he loved it…the garden gave him joy and pleasure…often I would find him sitting in his chair just staring at his garden…who knows what memories of his mom and dad and brothers and sisters ran through his head as he watched his towering tomato plants…walking through his garden was a feast of the senses…the rows were meticulous and neat. Everything grew straight and tall…he loved planting garlic and tomatoes and roly poly squash…he planted tiny cucumbers which he annoyingly insisted on calling pickles…but that was my dad.
I know his heart was broken when my mom died…he told me he talked to her every day…he didn’t understand her illness…he prayed and prayed for her to be herself again…I am quite sure he thought he could fix her…and it broke his heart that he could not…the last few weeks of his life were not what he would have wanted…perhaps if I am honest…he had not been truly happy the moment he realized he would not be going back to 542 Illinois Avenue for a long time…if not forever.
He loved his little house in his quaint little town…his chair….his newspapers…he loved the ordinariness of his life. He loved fishing…he made the best waxed paper wrapped fishing sandwiches…when he would come home with fish…we would empty his cooler and look for the leftover sandwiches…bologna on soft white bread, fried egg, whatever he made always tasted good to us. He always made sure he brought his kids treats…he would go to his favorite bar on Monday nights for a drink with his boys…and always come home with a huge bag of snacks for his kids…peanuts and pretzels and Cheetos and potato chips.
And now that I think of it…so many of my food memories during my childhood were connected overwhelmingly to my dad…ice cream cones from Isaly’s, big huge cinnamon rolls from somewhere in Youngstown…chip chopped ham ( which we called chippy choppy ham ) sandwiches on Sundays when everyone gathered at our house. Neopolitan ice cream cones from Idora Park and playing for hours with him in the Penny Arcade. Foot long hot dogs from the Canfield Fair…I know more will come to me…both of my brothers adore ketchup in eggs and fried bologna…that was their breakfast of choice with my dad…waiting for what seemed like hours at a McDonald’s for a plain hamburger for my sister because she was the only person in the world who wouldn’t eat them the way they came. And eating something that he made and that my dad called “slumgullion”…leftover Sunday roast beef and onions and ketchup and steak sauce…simmered in a pan on top of the stove…oh so good…
He worked hard all of his life…he made sure that each of his children went to college…he was so proud of his sons…the engineers…when his boys would call he would melt…he loved them dearly…he loved his daughters, too, of course…but I think he took us more for granted…expressing his love came late in my dad’s life…but he was able to tell all of us how dear we were to him and how much he loved us…
My dad could be prickly and mean and mad and stubborn but when he smiled and laughed…he was a sweetheart in his soul.
He lived his life exactly the way he wanted to…he didn’t care about pleasing people or promotions or even people’s feelings…but he was a good man and a good dad…
I will keep him in my heart for the rest of my life…I love you, Daddy…
Your first love…
and thank God you and mom didn’t name me Walterina…that is the story my mom always told me…my name was either going to be Patty or Walterina…Walter after my dad.
Your loving daughter…
6 thoughts on “Happy Father’s Day…”
What a lovely tribute to your father. My own father is 90 years old and has suffered a serious decline in his health in the last 3 weeks. It so difficult to see him suffer.
Oh, Kathy, I know…it is so hard…to watch them…lose their strength…take care.
Patty, delete my previous post – I goofed it)
Thoughts and prayers are with you, anniversaries are tough – may you always have the wonderful memories.
I did Sheila…and thank you for your thoughts…
My thoughts and prayers are with you. Your dad sounds like a wonderful man and dad.
Thanks so much Sandy…he was…