Father’s Day is coming up, and some memories of my dad are surfacing.
My parents came to the United States as German immigrants a few months before I was born. Dad was a trained baker, but he didn’t earn very much the first few years in the US. To make ends meet, he took a second job as a groundskeeper for a couple who owned a large property. One day while he mowed long grass, he accidentally ran over a rabbit’s nest, killing the mother rabbit and most of the babies. One baby was unharmed; he put it in a box and brought it home for me. I named him Thomas.
Wild bunnies do not make good pets. Thomas jumped out of the box and hid behind the sofa, leaving “presents” on the floor. The next morning, Dad said we had to release Thomas back into the wild. He took Thomas out to the backyard and let him go. I watched him hop away while I cried my eyes out.
When I was little, our old family car died, and it sat in the driveway for a time. Dad called it my “play car,” and I would sit behind the steering wheel and pretend I was driving. I loved it. For a while. Then I kind of forgot about it. One day a tow truck came to take it away. I cried. I thought my dad had it towed because I wasn’t playing in it anymore.
I think I was in first grade when our class read a story in our Weekly Readers about a child who made a clown doll, and we were all given the assignment of making a doll like the one in the story. Well, guess what? Six-year-olds have no idea how to sew a clown doll. I think every child who “completed” the assignment brought in a parent-made doll. At my house, for some reason, my dad decided to make mine. He didn’t follow the sketchy directions in the story (but no one’s parents did—every clown doll looked completely different). Dad repurposed an old blue striped curtain to sew the clown’s body. He stuffed it with dried beans.
Dad didn’t share his feelings with us much when we were growing up, unless he was displeased with us—then he made sure we knew our bad behavior was unacceptable. I remember when I was a teenager, I accused him of not loving me. He was bewildered. He said, “Don’t I work hard every day so that you have a roof over your head and food on your plate?” To him, his love was evident; he didn’t need to state the obvious.
But after he had a stroke in 2000, whenever we spoke, he always always said “I love you.”
When my mother passed away in 2004, my brother and I helped plan her Requiem Mass. Bill gave the remembrance; I did the scripture readings. Afterward, Dad told us how proud of us he was. I don’t remember him ever saying that when I was growing up. (I don’t know if he never said it, or if I just can’t remember.)
My brother Bill took care of my parents from at least 2000 on. Dad survived his stroke, but had a slow decline after my mother died. Late in 2013, he was hospitalized. Bill kept him company. He knew the end was near, and he was determined that Dad would not die alone. Two days after Christmas, he left Dad’s room for a couple of minutes, and when he returned, Dad had passed away. It was almost as though Dad waited for Bill to leave before he departed this earth.
If your dad is still with you this Father’s Day, please give him an extra hug for me.