Remembering One of My Greatest Teachers

LAST WEEK I glanced at the calendar. “Oh, Father’s Day is coming up,” I thought. “What should I get Dad this year?”

Then I remembered.

And my stomach dropped.

And my eyes filled with tears.

And my head slumped forward.

The first Father’s Day without my dad. Weird.

I can picture him in past years smiling as he opened his gifts. His face lighting up as his kids and grandkids came by for a visit. And his contentment as he’d settle into his chair to enjoy a quiet afternoon watching the U.S. Open with my two brothers.

He always enjoyed time with his kids, grandkids, and his great grandson. When we were all together, you could always catch him sitting back, marveling at this crowd of people that began with he and my mother. And you could see the joy and pride on his face.

Dad was fascinated by the tiny house Melissa and I are building. Each time I saw him, he’d ask lots of questions about it. He loved to hear about our plans to travel the country with our little house in tow.

“Lots of people dream of international travel, Kerri,” he’d say. “But there’s so much beauty right here in the U.S.” And he’d go on to describe the places he’d been. I loved listening to his stories.

Even though he thought we should’ve just gone with an RV, he was one of my biggest supporters. He’d put aside his idea of how he thought I should do things to share in my excitement. No interrogation. No quizzing. Just encouragement. It takes a special kind of person who can park their own stuff and just show up for you to yours. Dad was that kind of person.

And oh boy, when I told him about my book deal, you should have seen the huge smile spread across his face. The same smile that would appear when my mother would ask him if he ate a cookie (as he had a ring of chocolate around his mouth) and he’d say “Nope.”

“Laugh if you’re lying,” she’d say.

And there came the smile. The same one in the picture above.

He wanted to know every detail about my book.

What was the topic?

How many pages will it be?

When does it come out?

And of course, being the math man he was, he’d ask, “How much will you make off the sales?”

I’d update him on the progress of my book and any other business happenings. As an entrepreneur himself for most of his life, he loved talking business. And I loved talking business with him. He was so proud. I still talk business and adventures with him, only now I do it in my mind.

I’ve never been one to sit by a gravesite and talk to a deceased loved one. It’s just not my thing. I hate the idea of my Dad, in the physical form I knew, being buried in the ground. I’d much prefer to imagine him standing on a green, looking strong and healthy, leaning on his putter as we catch up on each other’s lives right before he sinks the golf ball in the hole for what would likely be at least a birdie.

So although he’s not here to share the excitement about my book coming out and or to witness the up-and-down progress of our tiny house build, I know he’s still seeing it all. I just wish he could be here with me so I could see that adorable smile in person again.

I sure miss that smile.

I’m still learning how to be a fatherless daughter. I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever get used to. Nor do I want to. I want to appreciate how blessed I was to call him “Dad.” I want to welcome the smiles and the tears as I remember him and miss him. They remind me just how important he was to me. And always will be.

This weekend, we’re having a family reunion cookout, with all the food and games Dad loved from past reunions. I know he’ll be with us. Whether it’s a cardinal, pennies, or a song, Dad has been in touch quite a bit since he passed. Besides he was never one to miss a party.

So this weekend, with mom, siblings, and grandkids, I shall raise a glass in his honor and watch for a sign from above. Happy Father’s Day, Daddio!

And Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there cheering on their kids and sharing their infectious smiles.

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