Sunday, June 17, 2018

My Poppy: A Father's Day Post

I've tried many times to write about my Poppy since he passed away but nothing ever seemed quite right about the posts. It was either too emotional, not the right time or simply too difficult to finish the post. This is my 3rd Father's Day without him and I'm feeling like all the stars are aligning and an actual post might happen this time. I guess if you're reading this, it did! :)

I don't know if I could ever explain why I'm such a daddy's girl but I suspect I was from the very start because I can't remember a time when I wasn't. Even before my first memories of him, my Lovey Mom tells stories of him holding me as a toddler after he got home from work and she would admonish him not to give my fat, baby cheeks a whisker burn from kissing me and loving on me. Even after working a long shift he didn't mind giving me the attention my toddler self demanded. I know he was the first man I ever loved (and one of the only) and I know this was probably one of the reasons I announced at 4 years old that I was going to marry him. But, I don't want to get ahead of myself and the blog I want to write about him.

My Poppy was a family man to his core and his entire life was spent taking care of us and showing us how much we were loved. A dear friend of mine astutely understood my close relationship with my Poppy and would often inquire about him. Once he asked, "What kind of a guy does your dad see you with?" I quickly said, "A democrat." Thinking I was joking around he said, "I'm serious!" to which I responded, "So am I!" I was only half joking but politics was just one of the many things my Poppy and I were in almost complete agreement about. For years my Poppy would call and remind me about elections and to make sure I remembered to vote. I will be thinking of him this coming Tuesday as I make my way to exercise my right to vote in my state's primary election.

My Poppy couldn't stand to see any of us unhappy or hurt. Although he could gruffly bark orders and get our attention to get us back in line and behaving, he had NO stomach for discipline that would make us cry. That was left to my mother and when we were younger, our belief was that she was doing it to save us from his harsher punishment. As an adult, I smile to myself knowing the truth of his very tender heart.

As an infant/toddler/child, I was severely pigeon-toed and after being accepted as a patient at the Shriner's Children's Hospital, he was the parent who would make the trips with me up to St Louis to see my doctor while my mother stayed home with my siblings. For the first 5 years after I started to walk, I wore hip-to-toe leg braces all day and slept in a night splint (that's a pair of shoes with toes pointed "out" affixed to a metal bar to hold them in place). My memories of the braces and splint are vague and few considering how long I wore them but I have wonderfully vivid and fond memories of all the time spent traveling with him to my appointments.

When my sister and I were 5 and 6 years old, there was a big winter snow and we were so excited to build a snowman and we kept begging my Poppy to take us out to build one. In his wise and loving way, he knew after bundling us up and venturing out, we'd probably be cold and wet and ready to go back inside within 10 minutes so he drew open the curtains of the big, picture window in the living room and we sat in our warm pajamas with hot cocoa as we watched him build a snowman for us. He always had a way of anticipating the best way to care for us and I was never in doubt of his love.

I learned to skate when I was 4 years old and throughout my childhood, we had private access to our neighborhood rink because my father made arrangements with the owners to clean the rink on Sunday nights. No other kid I knew had a weekly, private skate session through the years of their childhood. By the time I was in junior high, my Poppy and I would still have a weekly skate outing while he was president of American Airlines employee's activity association. It wasn't a private session, but skating was something he always arranged and encouraged throughout my entire youth. My current pair of skates are the pair he had custom made for me as a Christmas gift when I was in the 7th grade.

Every summer of my elementary school years, my father would sign me up for a summer reading club where I would get monthly shipments of books in the mail. Although he wasn't an avid reader, he always wished that he had been a better student and he felt that reading was a major building block to becoming an excellent student and he always encouraged me in my education.

He always knew the prefect gift to give and I think I inherited that ability from him.

I learned to drive in an era before cell phones and he made sure I could change a tire by myself in less than 10 minutes and taught me to drive on snow and ice in a deserted parking lot the first big snow after learning to drive. He was always there to take care of me but also wanted to make sure I could take care of myself without having to depend on someone else when he wasn't around. I can remember his advice about luggage as I prepared for a summer trip. He said, "You can't always count on someone like me being there to carry your bag, so if you can't lift it by yourself, you've packed too much."Such valuable advice that I heed to this day.

After my sister, Melissa, got married my mother told me that they were getting ready for bed after the long day of the ceremony and she heard my Poppy let out a big sigh as he was removing his shoes and socks. She turned to see him sitting on the end of their bed and she asked him what was wrong and he said, "I think if Heather ever gets married it might kill me." To this day I'm not sure if he meant the stress of another wedding or having to give away his baby girl. Turns out he needn't have worried. He never did have to give me away to anyone.

My Poppy loved music and always wished he could sing. Well, he did sing but not like he wanted. I loved how he would sing to me when it was just he and I. He would just sing non-sensical things in a sing-song voice. I do it now when I am alone with my Noel. On my 30th birthday he called me and I answered the phone to him singing "Happy Birthday" to me. After he was finished he said, "I'm way too young to have a child who is 30!" Never mind that I was his THIRD child to turn 30!

Oh, how I loved that man!

It's things like these that prompted my astute friend to say to me one time, "You don't need anyone to take care of you, do you? have your dad."

Oh, how I miss that man!

My life is filled with a million ways he cared for us and loved us but these are some of the most precious that have been on my mind so much since he left us. I will never stop missing him but I'm so very grateful for all of the wonderful memories that I have to sustain me.

Happy Father's day, Poppy Bear. I love you!

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