I published this Father’s Day blog in 2011 and felt I wanted to put it out there again. If You Can Hear Me Dad, I Just Want To Say… June 19, 2011 by pbenjay
I have so much to thank you for and I know I’ve said it before, this day, this Father’s Day, I feel the need to say it again. And this time it’s going to be harder because I don’t know if you can hear me and I don’t have an address where to send this letter. Of course, I can always fall back on my Catholic upbringing and hope and assume you are in heaven and in that case, you must be with Mom too.
But this day is about you; As an only child who lost her mother when I was 9, you played a bigger than life role in my life. All little girls adore their fathers, I was certainly no exception and for those few years when you had to be both Mommy and Daddy, you were my whole world. I wanted to be Daddy’s Little Girl forever.
It must have been really hard for you! I didn’t fully realize just how hard it must have been until I was in my own adulthood. Like all children, being totally self-centric, even as I grew up I only thought of my own pain and loss. I don’t know at what point it occurred to me just how young you were and how the burden of being a single parent must have been on you AND then it was even later before I realized the daily pain you must have felt losing the love of your life, my mother, Helen. She was only 33 years old so I guess you were probably around the same age. Those evenings around the supper table just you and me and the empty chair are forever ingrained in my mind while you sat and stared into some place and time not in the present. A broken heart, a full-time job to support me, a house to take care of, a child to rear and feed and nurture. Wow Dad, you rocked!
I am ever grateful to you for the parenting and nurturing you gave me that set me on the path of the person I’ve become. Along the way, I ‘ve made a lot of mistakes, some which you tried to talk me out of and some which I guess I had to experience in order to learn a lesson.
But this day is just not about my lamenting the loss of my dear Dad, it’s also about memories held dear and thankfulness for hundreds, no thousands of big and little things, ideas, principles, values, and fun times.
So thank you Dad for so many memories….teaching me to tie my shoes, getting me a dog, letting me sit on your lap as you read even when I was way too big to do so. For making me kites from road maps and making them bigger than any store-bought one with long tails, and letting me take even more maps to cover my school books, for letting me be a tomboy and because you worked for J & E Stevens, bringing home the best cap guns and holsters ever. Thank you for teaching my friends and I how to water ski, for taking me along with you to pick the first dandelions of the season by Wadsworth Falls, for giving me a jack knife and trusting me with it. For teaching me how to fish and taking me deep sea fishing with you, for building stilts for me and for teaching me about shooting marbles. Thank you for finding the money to send me to St. John’s School where I received such a good basic education, that those of us who went there were all bumped up an English grade in Junior HS. You were the one who fixed the broken zipper on my dress an hour before I was supposed to leave for a dance and you were the one who was angry at me when you found out I was smoking! Thank you for instilling in me the joy of reading, the value and satisfaction of growing flowers and vegetables, for taking us on vacation to the beach either in Maine or Rhode Island where I learned to love the smell of the ocean and body surf the waves.
Thank you Dad for standing by me when I made the decision to get a divorce, for getting me a calf and raising it so we could slaughter it and have beef for a year, for teaching me to drive a stick shift car and for letting me play jacks on the dining room floor even though it probably scratched it up a lot. I have great memories of you and Susan’s Dad, Bill and us all sledding at night down Spencer Drive, and of the clam bakes, pig roasts and other block parties that I know you were the instigator and I inherited that gene and passed it on to my own daughter.
Thank you taking me clamming with you and teaching me how to eat clams on the half shell even when I was still small enough to sit in the bushel basket where you put the clams you found. For being the “fix-it” Dad that you were fixing all kinds of things around my apartment and house for years and years. For always getting me a big pumpkin at Halloween and carving the best faces! You were so involved in making the holidays special whether it was pumpkin carving or coloring Easter eggs with me and being the Dad in the neighborhood who got all the fireworks for Fourth of July and giving me sparklers, black snakes and poppers. Thank you for letting me plaster pictures of Elvis Presley all over my bedroom door and for buying me his records and my own Hi-Fi portable record player.
Thank you keeping the memory of my mother alive and marrying my stepmother so I wouldn’t grow up motherless. I miss you Dad – there are many times when I reach for the phone to call you and ask you something and then I remember I can’t do that anymore. This past week, I drove to CT to see Susan and on the way I passed the Stella D’Oro Cookie Factory, where when we drove past it on our way to see Grandma, we could smell the cookies baking and I knew we were getting close to her apartment. Well the cookie smells have been gone a long time since the factory closed the manufacturing end and just used the building as headquarters. Two days ago, I was saddened to see a For Sale sign on the building. Just another incident in the passage of time and a reminder of days gone by, days spent with you Dad.
I wish I were home where I could get a photo of my Dad to add to this post, but I’m not, so I can’t. What I do have, is a photo of what I would call the Ultimate Care Bear; This is a bear created and made by the staff of the Hospice under whose care my father was in at the end of his life. The bear is made with articles of clothing of my Dad, particularly items he wore and used for as long as I can remember. He always had a bandana in his pocket to be used to wipe the sweat away as he worked or to use as a handkerchief. He served in the Navy in WWII and then re-enlisted in later life in the Naval Reserve – the bear has his hat and one of his Naval patches. He favored plaid flannel shirts and the bear is wearing some of the same as well as one of his blue work shirts. I keep this bear where I can see it knowing its presence keeps his presence in my life.