The first motivational speaker in my life was my dad. He preached to us at an early age, when we asked for something, by saying, "Wish in one hand, shit in the other, and tell me which one fills up faster." Touché. We learned not to keep asking.
He also told us, on numerous occasions, to "go plaaaaaayyy on the yellow liiiiiine." We lived on a highway -- even by rural standards. Clearly, my brother and I must have understood that he had a sense of humor and ignored his recommendation to "go play in traffic." I remember going on a long ride to Hershey, Pennsylvania when I was a kid and wanting to go to the bathroom, when he told me, "Nance, think of Niagra Falls." Nice.
Dad also shared with us, at the request of almost anything, that "there's no money tree in the back yaaaaaaard!" When the noise level got over a certain decibel point -- he'd say to us (and now our children), "Kids, can ya keep it down to a dull rooooarrrr?" My three children did just that and roared simultaneously at a "dull" level.
Another one of his favorite sayings was, "I should save my breath, because I'm going to need it for the last day." And, so he did. My dad passed away last March and we just spent our first Father's day without him. In prior years, my three brothers golfed with him, and a cookout would inevitably follow.
My younger brother David pointed out the wisdom in Dad's "sayings." He never told a lie and it was something he insisted that we didn't do, as well -- always tell the truth. The truth is -- if you "wish in one hand and" . . . well, you get the point. If you play on the yellow line, you're much more likely to be killed than if you play on the sidewalk. There is no money tree in the back yard. Keeping things to a dull roar -- not so sure what the consequence of that one is. Saving your breath for the last day -- he did, and he did it well. He was a total trooper.
He loved my mother more than any man I've ever witness love their wife. Was he easy? No way. Was his love true -- truer than any man I've ever known? Absolutely. He would have been lost without her, and she is lonely without him, micro-managing the placement of his deodorant in the bathroom, saving every credit card receipt to show against the statements, to his clearly laid out desk accessories in his basement "office." Did I mention he was a CPA, type A personality and a tad obsessive compulsive?
Dad had many things to say to mom including, "You wouldn't say shit if your mouth was full of it." Little did he know that was the saving grace of their marriage. My mother was at his beck and call -- always. He wanted for nothing -- well, more on that in a bit. She waited on him hand and foot, cooked nearly every meal the man ate during their 51 years of marriage, ironed his shirts, did his laundry, and the list goes on.
Not long before he passed, he requested "privacy" to talk to my mom alone, when I was in the hospital with my uncle. We opted to leave the room. He shared with my mom that he wanted her to stay with him that night. My mom explained that she didn't have clothes and didn't have a place to sleep. My dad replied that "it's not just about the sex," and that "they were two grown people," who clearly could sleep together in the same bed at this age and stage of life -- even if he was in the hospital.
Dad knew it was his time starting 64 hours before he died. We knew it, too. His final day he requested my "help" to stop the chest pain from the broken ribs he endured, during a resuscitation episode, two days prior. To see a parent become child-like and beg for his daughter's help to stop the pain was excruciating. His breathing was labored and he continued his requests for oxygen, along with more complaints of chest pains incurred when the medical team attempted to resuscitate him the day before that -- he couldn't breathe. A horrible way to go!
In the end, we were all able to share our love for dad, and he expressed his love for us and apologized to each of us (albeit not so specific as to what he was apologizing for). Either way, isn't that what we want to end our life with -- an expression of love that might have gone unnoticed and apologies for whatever we might have done to hurt the ones we love -- the ones we shouldn't hurt at all, but do, because we're the safest people to hurt and still feel love from them and express love to them?
Having no regrets for spending the past decade being closer to my dad than I ever have been, I'm so grateful for the times I've spent with him.
I became very ill almost a decade ago and by May of 2005, I was on death's door. My mom and dad were there for me 110 percent. They both drove into Boston to see me nearly daily and were my health care proxy's who, ultimately, were able to make decisions on my behalf because I was separated from my husband at the time.
My dad would ask me, when I was on a feeding tube, "Nance, do you want a filet mignon today, sss, sss, sss . . ." (my dad's way of laughing was a sss, sss, sss sound). My mom would be upset -- but personally, I didn't care -- I had no appetite anyway and I knew it was his sometimes "sick" sense of humor at play.
I'm so grateful we spent 10 days together, before his lung cancer was diagnosed, in Santa Monica and Pasadena, CA for the 2012 Rose Bowl Parade. He and my mom joined me, along with my beau at the time and my three children, to see me ride on the Donate Life float for organ donation. It was the last trip I ever took with my dad and we all have great memories.
My dad also offered me some of the best advice I'd ever received. "Nance, marry someone who will be an asset to you." Umm. When I was so depressed from being sick and wanting to fade away, he told me my "only job is to get well. Nothing else matters until that happens." He was so right.
There are, and will be, so many more times in my life I'd like my dad to be present for. Sadly, that won't happen, although he'll always have a place in my heart... every day, in every way, from this day forward.