Category Archives: Daddy

Our World. Assholes. My Dad. We’re connected.

Go see this movie.  Now.
Sure, it gets a little preachy and pedantic at times but all in all, a fantastic message and what would seem to be an absolute truth.  I’m just thankful that Tom Shadyac decided to start the conversation.  It’s worth your $8 bucks.
Watched Shania Twain on Oprah last week.  We’re down to 13 shows left folks and I’m already in withdrawl.  I know, barf, but I do love me some O.  Here’s the thing – I like Shania just fine.  Now I don’t own any of her music but I think she’s an okay gal.  She opened up about her divorce and the heartbreak and betrayal of her husband’s affair and subsequently announced her new marriage.  To the dude that was married to the woman who had the affair with her husband.  Read it again, I’ll wait.
Now, I suppose these things happen.  Maybe more often than not, perhaps.  You fall together for comfort and consolation and the next thing you know, you’re in each other arms.  I for one, am waaay too immature for that.  I’d be badgering the dude relentlessly about the ex. Now I realize she IS Shania Twain and all but her man still stepped out so I’d want to know what that skank had on me, you know.
I realize this is not healthy.  Or adult, really.  They basically swapped partners and I just can’t see how that shit doesn’t come up on a daily basis.  
I kinda call ridiculous on the whole thing.  Of all the men in the world you decide to marry the one that was married to the woman that helped to break up your marriage?  Well then, one could also say the same about dude.  Shania’s husband is now married to that dude’s ex-wife.  Hmmm.  I’m starting to confuse myself.  I tell you what, if Johnny and I don’t work out I’m gonna give chicks a try.  Oh good grief, I totally want to delete this entire post but whatev.
So, did you watch the Royal Wedding?  Me either.  I do see that Pippa Middleton’s ass now has a Facebook page.  An “appreciation” society has developed for this young lady’s posterior.  I told my friend Renee that indeed my own ass should also have it’s own FB page declaring it’s fabulousness and she retorted,  “me too!  well, mine might need TWO pages”.  Hilarious.  Moreso if you know Renee.  She’s as big as a minute and weighs as much as my left leg.
Lou Reed
I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I heard this song for the very first time on local college radio last week.  Lou wrote some songs about Andy Warhol, back in the day. He’s kind of an asshole if you are familiar with a lot of his work.  I say that with utter reverence and appreciation for Lou’s talent and his way with words.  He’s actually singing with the typical “middle finger” toothpick hanging out of his mouth.  I heart Lou Reed.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the assholes of the world.  Lou Reed.  Denis Leary.
Don Rickles.  Jillian Michaels.   Archie Bunker.  Hunter S. Thompson.  Mike Ditka.

My Dad was once dubbed a “majestic asshole” by my brother, and no truer words have been spoken.  Like those before him, he filled the role with pride and chutzpah.  He didn’t *try* to BE an asshole, it was just in his DNA.  He hadn’t a choice in the matter inasmuch as his Arthritis or his propensity for Gout.  A true asshole isn’t a jerk, or a mean person.   I think a true asshole stands up for what he believes in, even when it’s wrong.  A true asshole will voice an unpopular opinion.  An asshole will call you out when you’re making a bad decision.  A true asshole won’t give you a break.  A majestic asshole will call bullshit when there is indeed bullshit present, without fail.

My Father would have been 90 years old today.  He indeed was a majestic asshole.  In this day of politically correct polite bullshit society, he would be a gem.  I’m not saying he’d be popular, but he’d surely have a ball.

So, happy birthday, Daddy.  For you, I go on.

“the first thing we saw was the smell”
(best quote ever)

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Breakdown at the Bank


All I had to do was go to the bank.

That’s all. Go to the bank and open a joint savings account.
So I went.
I plopped down on the little couch area outside of the bank executives and waited. As I gazed around the bank I critiqued outfits and made observations. It was starting to snow outside. There was another lady ahead of me and we started up a conversation. We chatted about how it must be so difficult for older folks to keep up with all the technological changes these days, especially in the banking industry. All of the bank executives were busy handling elderly customers and I could see the frustration and compassion in their eyes. I couldn’t overhear much of their conversations, only random snippets. One lady was trying to explain “paperless” online statements to a couple. Another was softly telling a gentleman that he needed to bring in a death certificate in order for her to finish processing his request. This got my attention.
I glanced over my chair and into the clear plexiglass cube in which they were seated.
His back was facing me, but I could see he was wearing a navy fleece vest atop a flannel plaid shirt. He had on a hat that some call a “newsboy”, but what my Father called his “go to hell” hat. His short white hair peeked out from beneath. I couldn’t turn away. I strained to hear more of their conversation, but couldn’t.
I found myself somewhat obsessed with this gentleman. My eyes bored holes into the back of his head as I silently chanted, “turn around, turn around, just turn around and look at me“.
He rose to leave. He shook the hand of the bank executive. He then bent over to retrieve his cane and turned. He faced me.
I knew his wrinkled face and his vibrant blue eyes. I knew the gentle stoop of his walk.
I knew his rimless eyeglasses and the rumpled look of his flannel shirt. I knew his bemused smile as he gazed upon me.
It was my Daddy.
But it wasn’t.
I burst into tears. IN PUBLIC. Uncontrollable emotion lurched from me and it wasn’t pretty. I felt like I’d been hit with a baseball bat square in the stomach. What for a moment seemed like a unlikely sweet reunion became a silly delusional hallucination.
He was just a little old man in a bank and I somehow left leave of my senses and *thought* I had run into my deceased Father. Oops.
I ran from the bank into the sanctity of my Jeep. I thought I was going to hyperventilate. I watched my “Daddy” slowly shuffle to his car and drive away. I had actually beat him out of the bank in my full-on freak out. I got myself under control fairly quickly, yet it was so unexpected. So raw. So weird.
It was unexpected and weird because if I’m going to run into my dead Father, surely it will be in bar somewhere.
It was raw because after almost 3.5 years, I still can’t believe how much I miss him.
Does it ever go away?
I hope not.

A Love Letter

Joseph R. O’Donnell (5/7/22 – 8/9/2007)

August 9, 2010

Hey there!
How the hell are you? It’s been awhile since we’ve been able to talk. So much has happened in the last three years, I don’t really know where to start. Remember that boy I dated in college that you liked? More accurately, do you remember the ONLY boy that I dated that you ever liked? Do you? His name was Johnny and you thought he was a good kid. You liked his handshake and that he took off his hat when he was inside our house. Well, you won’t believe this, but I married him. Yessir, it only took 20 years but through colossal circumstances, we reunited and whattya know, I’m married! At 40, I know you thought it would never happen. I still remember you telling potential suitors that they have a “tiger by the tail”. Well, I may be the tiger but he can definitely handle my tail. That’s not meant to be naughty, by the way.
We’re unbelievably happy and the only way our wedding could’ve been better is if you’d been there. I moved away, you know. I rented out my little house and now I’m up in the mountains with Johnny. Well, not just with Johnny. He has two little girls!
Can you believe it? Remember how you encouraged me to have a baby? You especially wanted me to have a little girl. You even joked that if I would just have a baby, you’d raise it for me. Well, now there are two little girls in my life and you would be totally delighted. They are beautiful and funny and you’d laugh if you could see my life now. I’ve gone from martinis and sushi to Spongebob and Spaghetti O’s. I wish you could meet them, I know they’d get a kick out of you and your old gruffy self.
I was thinking about you the other day and remembering all the fun we used to have and how much I’ve missed you. Remember how we used to go out every single Wednesday night? Sometimes we’d have dinner at my place, other times we’d go drink Jack Daniel’s in a sports bar somewhere. Other times we’d go see a horror movie and I’d ALWAYS have to explain something to you because you’d frequently doze off while I sat by your side consumed with sheer terror. Every time I’d jump or scream you’d laugh. I also remember the time you smacked someone in the aisle in front of us upside their head for talking during the movie. I was mortified, but they sure as shit quit talking, didn’t they?
We both love Westerns and Ice cream. We love whiskey and Kung fu. We think each other is hilarious and we’ve always maintained that we’re such a good team. We are! We’ve had so much fun over the years, and shared SO many laughs. I sure miss that.
When you started to get sick it confused me. Things you normally would think amusing were suddenly annoying. I remember renting the movie “Jackass” which under normal circumstances you’d have found hysterical. Instead you dismissed it as “stupid”. Of course it was, but it used to be “our” kind of stupid. I remember making you dinner on one of our special Wednesday nights. I made tacos because those were always your absolute favorite. When I came out of the kitchen with your drink there was a small moat of lettuce, tomatoes and meat encircling your chair. You had salsa running down your chin and all over your shirt. You looked up at me meekly and whispered, “maybe I should just eat in the tub”. I gave you a hearty laugh, but it completely broke my heart. Suddenly, I was the grown-up.
I remember when you forgot me. I walked up to you and knelt down at your wheelchair. “Hey handsome!”, I chirped. I gazed up at your long face and I could instantly see your confusion and bewilderment. “Hey, it’s ME“, I whispered. You looked right into my eyes and shook your head as if to say, “I’m so sorry”. You knew you knew me, you just didn’t know how.
The last day we hung out was a pretty fucking cool day. Remember? I dropped in to see you and you were full of piss and vinegar. You were watching the evening news and there was some segment about George Bush on some sort of Military ship. You grabbed the remote and turned it off while simultaneously giving the President your famous one finger salute. You called me “shitbird”, the nickname you gave me years ago and hadn’t used in ages. I was so excited to see you feeling so well and *almost* back to your old self. We chatted and laughed and talked about what we would do over the upcoming weekend. We were going to go to McDonald’s for breakfast. Only because you love their lousy pancakes and sausage – barf!
Well, hell. That was the last time we got to hang out. And now it’s been three years. Three years where so much has happened and so much I’d have loved to share with you. Of course, I know you do see me and my new life. I know you’re sharing in this new experience with me and rooting me on and laughing all the while. Selfishly I just wish you were still sitting across a booth from me bitching about something…anything, really. You never were at a loss for things that pissed you off. We’d always have one more drink when we knew we shouldn’t. That would usually lead to a story that left us laughing until tears filled our eyes.
Well, tonight my eyes are filled with tears but I’m not laughing, Daddy.
I miss you so badly my heart aches and I wish I had another chance to tell you how much I love you. How much I hope that I make you proud. How I hope you forgive me for all the mistakes I’ve made. How I wish I could just give you a kiss on the top of your fuzzy old head just one more time.
Most of all I just want you to know that I’m glad I’m your kid. I’m your daughter and you’re my Dad and death cannot take that away. Your blood runs through my veins and unfortunately at times, so does your temper. I know what you would say to that.
“Piss on it. We’re allowed. We’re Irish”.
I miss you. But it’s okay, I’m allowed. I’m just an Irish girl who loves her Daddy.
Love always,
Shitbird
>

Daddy don’t you walk so fast*.

It didn’t come on slowly, as I initially had thought. It was more like a car crashing into a brick wall, but I chose not to see it.

It was 1996 and I had just moved into an apartment with my boyfriend. My parents had recently divorced and feeling sorry for my Father, I invited him over for a day of “home repairs” and bonding. My Father was quite the handyman and literally built dog houses to actual garages, from scratch. There wasn’t much he couldn’t do when it came to constructing things, or home improvement. My boyfriend then, however, could barely change a light bulb.

Anyway, the first thing on my list was to install a dimmer switch in our dining room. I handed the switch to my Dad and gave him my tool kit. He stood there caressing the package in his gnarly arthritic hands for a few minutes. He looked at the tool box and then back at me. “I don’t think I can do this, Yen”, he said softly. I immediately noticed the tone in his voice, as it was completely foreign to me. It was fear.

It was then the dance began. We were awkward partners at first, he and I. Clumsy.

After that it was sporadic at best. Sometimes he’d pay the dry cleaner and yet come home without his pants. Once he and I met Johnny Cash at a book signing where I watched him take countless photos. According to his wife, he went home and inexplicably pulled the film out like toilet paper off of a roll, exposing and ruining it simultaneously. He would call and ask me the name of our Dentist of twenty years. It was like a row of Dominos, one thing collapsing into the other.

Then, the dance began to speed up.

His sister died and he forgot. He could not tell me what I do for a living, or where I live. He couldn’t tell me where we lived before we moved to Tennessee. He thought Mr. Cooper was a dog from my childhood. He had forgotten his marriage to my Mother. A marriage of 34 years. We became better partners, he and I. I did research and went to therapy and became very, very versed in all things Alzheimer. I adjusted my expectations and we were good. I accepted our circumstances and situation and made the best of it. We were fucking Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

And then? The dance abruptly halted. It stopped the day I realized my Daddy didn’t remember me.

You cannot take it personally. It is an insipid, horrible, gutting disease. Thankfully, he knew me last summer on the day the he actually died. He called me “shitbird”, as that was his (affectionate) childhood name for me. Funny, that.

I am participating in a charity walk tomorrow to support those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, directly and indirectly.

Please support your Alzheimer’s charities, even if it’s just a walk or a $5 donation.

It could happen to anyone. I should know.

*anyone remember the song of the same name? Who sang it?

I’ll have the sirloin and a shot of Jack Daniel’s, please.

Today is my Father’s birthday. He would have been 86 years old.

Every year we’d celebrate his birthday with dinner out at a restaurant of his choosing. According to my Father, the only qualifiers were that the establishment had to serve booze and steak. Nothing too fancy, though – this is a man who requested ketchup at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. They called it “tomato sauce” and served it in a ramekin, but he got his ketchup.

My Dad loved whiskey and steak. In that order. As he dipped further into dementia in his later years, I would laugh when he would look at me quizzically when the server would ask for his choice of side item. His look said “It’s steak. Don’t screw it up by throwing some broccoli or green beans on the same plate, for Crissakes“. Inevitably he’d go with the baked potato, of course.

Every year on this day I’d let him pick and off we’d go. A few years ago we went to a posh local grille and I remember I sat on the same side of the booth with him so that he could hear me. I kept knocking his elbow trying to eat and he’d grumble at me. Upon leaving the restaurant an old acquaintance of my Dad’s walked up and greeted him. My Father was in the early stages of dementia and hadn’t a clue as to the identity of this gentleman. I was starting to get used to such circumstances, so I tried to run interference. I wasn’t fast enough however, and before I could stop him my Father picked up his cane and poked the tip of it into the man’s belly, loudly stating…”YOU’RE FAT”! *sigh*

Last year I took him to dinner and defied Doctors orders by letting him order a whiskey. So sue me, the man was dying. Anyway, as we raised our glasses to toast the occasion, I chirped “happy birthday”! He looked at me quizzically. “I thought it was Father’s Day. Whose birthday is it”? I smiled and gently said, “yours, Daddy”. He looked thoughtful for a minute, raised his glass again and muttered “well, damn me”! He was never one to let the small stuff get in the way of a celebration. As I recall he ordered chocolate cake in his own honor after the confusion was cleared up.

Not to get off the subject, but I took Dad to dinner on Father’s Day last year as well. It was right before he was admitted into the nursing home, and was ultimately the last dinner we would have together. Again, we raised our glasses;

Me: Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

Daddy: What?

Me: It’s Father’s Day! Happy Father’s Day!

Daddy: Am I… your Father?!?

Me: Yes you are!

Daddy: Well, hell! (looking very relieved at figuring out why I look so damn familiar)

Me: What? Did you think we were on a date? The ego on you!

Daddy/Me: *collapsing in gales of laughter*

He also had a favorite local greasy spoon where we spent a birthday or two. Sometimes steak and whiskey were substituted with burgers and beer. One thing you could count on with my Father was unpredictability. He also had a blatant crush on the waitress that worked there. To her credit, she rolled with it. She’d flirt with him and pay him extra attention every time we visited. He may have been in this 8o’s, but a short denim skirt still got his attention, and sometimes an inappropriate comment. I would just shake my head and tip big.

Another time I grilled steaks and he came to my house. We had chocolate cake and drank Guinness beer. He loved Mr. Cooper. Of course, he thought Mr. Cooper was another dog from my childhood but that didn’t matter to me, my Father, or Mr. Cooper. He (Mr. Cooper) basked in the adoring attention.

Looking back on all these years of birthdays makes me suddenly realize that the qualifiers were not booze and meat, after all. The only thing that really mattered to him was that we spent them together.

Last year after his Father’s Day dinner I helped his wife load him into the van, and put his wheelchair in the back. I kissed him on the forehead and waved goodbye as they pulled out of the parking lot. Later that evening his wife phoned me to tell me that he had only spoken one other sentence for the remainder of that day. Sitting in his wheelchair he reached over, tugged on her shirt sleeve and said, “I’m glad she’s my daughter”.

Oh, Daddy. Me too.

Happy birthday.

All in the Family

I’ve been re-visiting the HBO classic “The Soprano’s” lately. I have seen episodes here and there but never in any type of logical sequence or with any frequency. Through the wonder of Netflix, I’ve been hanging out in New Jersey with my favorite family. I’m about to start season 3 and find myself addicted to Tony and both of his families. I’ve always loved mob movies and the entire Italian-American culture. I’ve often thought if I could be anything but Irish, I’d want to be Italian. Or, “eye-talian“, as my Grandmother says. Did you hear that? That was my Father rolling over in his grave. My Dad was very fond of Italians. Fond of calling them “wops” and “dagos”, anyway. The Italians and the Irish aren’t fast friends, but they really should be…they’re pretty darn similar if you ask me, which leads me to my point; Tony Soprano reminds me a lot of my Father.

Dad had quite a temper. He never once laid a finger on me or my younger brother but that was certainly not the case with others that crossed him. My oldest brother tells a tale of walking down the street with my Father in Dad’s younger years. My Dad and a friend of his got into a fight with a few other men after a verbal exchange. I’m not exactly sure of the stats but I know it was two against four or five. My Dad motioned for my brother to seek safety on a neighbor’s porch. He watched horrified as my Dad grabbed one guy and proceeded to break the mans’ arm over his raised knee. My brother heard the bone snap like a twig. The mans’ forearm dangled limply from his elbow, facing the wrong way. Yikes.

There are countless more humorous anecdotes about my Father’s temper and not all of them contain physical violence. Well, there was the time he knocked out a co-workers two front teeth. Oh, and he did knee a Police officer in the groin when I was in high school. While that was normally considered dirty pool by my Father, by then his arthritis had caught up with him and between his bad hands and shoulders, throwing a punch was just too painful. Anyway, most of the time his temper would explode and just as quickly dissipate. He was infamous for losing his cool during home repair projects, often destroying the very thing he was building or trying to fix in a fit of rage.

His temper had a reputation of its own, but so did his fantastic sense of humor. His colorful language was hilarious enough, but his antics were just as amusing. He would go to great lengths to pull off a joke or to scare the crap out of someone (usually me). He didn’t care what anyone thought, he’d make a fool of himself for a good laugh. He could also be very caring and gentle, often nursing wounded animals back to health. Once he even showed up at my office on a beautiful day with a picnic lunch. He often would stop to help a stranded motorist or help a neighbor with a outdoor project. There was a definite dichotomy between his kind heart and his brutish manner.

He was a doting family man and would do anything for us. He was fiercely protective and loyal.
His gruffness was just part of his charm, a lot like Tony Soprano. He too was flawed with prejudice and a tremendous sense of entitlement. Like Tony, he would rationalize his actions when they were less than honorable. One night our neighbors dog barked until daylight. The next morning it went “for a ride” with my Dad and a pork chop. He told us he found it a home where it would get the attention it deserved. Uh huh. There were many justifications in our household. Defending his prejudices he’d say “well, I hate ’em all equally“. He could be somewhat comical in his self-righteousness and always irritating.

I guess Tony’s “old-school” demeanor is what is so strikingly similar to my Father’s personality. My Dad believed in an “eye for an eye”. He didn’t believe in sharing your feelings or being indecisive. He believed in hard work and a firm handshake. He didn’t believe in hiring someone to do a job you could do yourself and he thought rockstars were douchebags. Well, he thought a lot of folks were douchebags.

Unlike Tony Soprano, my Father would not have been caught dead “lip-shitting” in a therapists’ office. Not on your life. You solve your problems, you don’t yap about ’em.

Well, maybe he was somewhat similar to someone else as well;

I miss you, Dad.

May the Wind be always at your Back

A dear friend of mine recently lost his Father. It was an unforeseen shock to all of us. He has been in my thoughts a lot lately. I’m not sure what’s worse….having a loved one pass away unexpectedly, or preparing for it daily, as I did. I had to suffer the gut-wrenching agony of watching my Father wither away physically and mentally for years. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. It was at times more than I could bear. Then again, I had the peace of being able to say goodbye to my Father and had the time to prepare for the inevitable. I cannot imagine the pain of being blindsided by that kind of unexpected loss. There are no words.

He emailed me today after reading a few of my posts about the loss of my Father. Particularly my posts entitled “Sweet Dreams” and “When the Night Comes”. His Father had visited him in his dreams as well and he echoed my sorrow at greeting the morning and awaking to reality.

Everyone processes anguish and sorrow differently. We all believe what we need to, and find peace wherever we can. If you don’t, you’ll find that grief can destroy you. Personally, I feel that my Father has reached out to me in my dreams. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not, because I do. When my Father died I felt so incredibly empty. I felt like the vacuous hole in my heart would never, ever go away. Then, slowly, I started noticing the little things. Coincidental things. Things that I would go so far as to call “signs”. Again, that’s just me. You can tell me to stop drinking my own bathwater.

This morning, I told my friend this story. I don’t think I’ve shared it with anyone.

It’s well documented that my Father was a very proud Irishman. Being Irish wasn’t just his heritage, it was a way of life. I can remember him singing “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” as a young girl. If he lost his temper or drank too much, well….that just goes with the territory. My parents threw elaborate St. Patrick’s Day parties and even as a sick old man he ventured back to Ireland one last time before he died.

A few years ago I bought him a Shamrock plant on a whim at a local nursery. I bought myself one as well. I put it on my kitchen windowsill and there it remained. A few weeks before he passed away, I noticed it was struggling. No matter what I did, it wilted and turned brown. Finally I looked up from doing the dishes one night and noticed it had died. Its stems were limp against the soil, and its leaves brown and crunchy. Crap.

My Father died about a week later.

The week after his death was a blur. Funeral arrangements. Sobbing. Sleeping too much. Notifying people. Collapsing on the floor in tears. Phonecalls. It was surreal.

A few days after the funeral I arrived home from work. I threw my purse and keys down on my dining room table and clicked on the evening news. I went outside to check my mail. As I came back in the door I heard Katie Couric announce my Father’s passing. Now that, my friends, was a surreal moment.

I walked into my kitchen to make a drink. As I was cracking the ice cube tray over my glass I looked up and noticed my Shamrock plant. It was alive. Alive and green and blooming and magnificent. I was stunned. It was twice its original size.

Sure, explanations abound, but what I chose to believe is that it was a sign. It was a sign from my Father letting me know that he is at peace. He lives on in me, and in my heart. His wife tells me that every single time his name is mentioned in the media, one of his pictures will fall off of a wall in their home. My first love has re-entered my life because of an article about my Father’s passing, twenty years later.

I know there are coincidences and theories and facts and explanations. I don’t care. I know what I believe and I know what helps me to find comfort in these last eight months since my Daddy died. I have a zillion regrets. I wish every day that I hadn’t lost my temper with him or I’d acted differently in any given situation. What I think is that these are just his little ways of telling me that everything is alright. He is not suffering anymore, and he desperately wants me to stop my flippin’ crying and laugh when I think of him and all the wonderful memories we share.

Find peace where you can, my friend. It won’t make you miss him less, but it will definitely make your heart smile.

Like my Irish eyes.

Sweet Dreams

I’ve not been sleeping well lately. With all that’s transpired, I suppose it’s understandable. I’ve often been quoted stating the two things that I know I’ll never die of are insomnia and anorexia. Anyway, notsomuch with the sleeping these days. I start full awake at 3am and cannot get back to sleep. Alternatively, I’ll toss and turn until around 3am, and then fall asleep, only to awake at 5:00 am for work or boot camp.

Last night I went to bed without the assistance of alcohol or drugs. By drugs, I mean Tylenol PM. Between boot camp and bike training, I think those little gelcaps and I are dating.

Anyway, here’s where it gets weird. Have you ever had an awful dream and awakened yourself on purpose? You know how you can get in that weird semi-conscious state where you know it’s a dream, but yet you’re in control, sort of? It’s hard to explain. Sometimes when I’m having a really bad dream, I know I’m dreaming and I’ll “stop” and shake my head (in my dream) and in real life, I’ll wake up. Maybe this isn’t normal, but it happens to me occasionally.

Anyway, last night I had a strange dream. I was in harbor of sorts, with a large group of folks…some I knew, others just dream “extras”. There was a barge coming, and only a few of us were allowed on. I cannot explain how I knew, but I knew that those left behind weren’t going to make it home…ever. They were going to die, even though there wasn’t an impending sense of any disaster. I turned my head from them as the barge pulled out of the harbor, because they were waving wildly and smiling, yet I knew their fate. I felt guilty that they were left behind and for whatever reason, I was chosen to board.

As the barge pulled out of the harbor, I was along the rail looking out at the shallow water. There were a bunch of folks, fully clothed ( I know, it’s a DREAM, people) standing in the water about up to their waists. They were all just talking and laughing and it seemed very normal. There were in groups, scattered across the inlet. I glanced over and saw my Daddy. He was talking to a small group of folks. He was wearing a grey sweater with a blue button down oxford underneath. He looked like his old self, not like a withered old man. He was vibrant and rosy-cheeked.

I yelled to him. He turned around and looked right at me. The barge slowed down and I reached out to him.

Me: “Daddy! Daddy! Hey – I love you”!
Daddy: “Hey, Yen – I love you too – you’re a funny girl, you know that”?
Me: “Where do you think I get it from”?!?!
Daddy: *laughing and nodding his head*

Just then I started to wake up. I didn’t want to. I wanted to keep talking to him, and yet, I knew I was dreaming so I decided to take that opportunity. I wanted to see if somehow my dream had bridged our worlds to be together again, even for a moment.

I yelled at the Captain of the barge to slow down even more. He did. I leaned over the railing and yelled loudly……
“DADDY! HEY! OVER HERE! ARE YOU IN HEAVEN”!?!?

He looked at me and laughed – he said “No, I’m right here”! – His finger was pointing down at the water. He turned back around to the other folks.

Crap.

As my brain and subconscious started to awake, I decided to get more specific.

Again I yelled, “No, Daddy – I mean, NO, RIGHT NOW…..are you in Heaven!?! Please tell me that you’re in Heaven!! I need to know that you’re safe…. in Heaven”!

He turned around, and for a moment I thought he looked frustrated at my second interruption. Instead, I noticed his gnarly hand and crooked arthritic finger. He looked right at me with smiling eyes and said “NO, HONEY, I TOLD YOU, I’m RIGHT HERE“!!!!!!!

He was pointing to his heart.

Good Grief

Yesterday was my Father’s funeral. It was the most surreal and unbelievable day of my life and I gotta tell you, I’ve lived quite a life.

This is gonna be a long one, so go ahead and get a beer, glass of ice tea, or paint thinner and settle in for a bit. I’ll wait.

Ready?

Here we go.

Get to the church. MEET MY BROTHER. Yes folks, you know you’re in an Irish family when you meet your brother for the first time at your Daddy’s funeral. Holy crap. He’s a freakin‘ ringer for Dad so there’s that. If there had been a casket we could have put him in it just for effect. We could’ve had him sit up mid-funeral and scare the shit out of people. But of course, that would be wrong. But hilarious. Just sayin‘.

I would say that 99% of the people in that congregation/audience (?) had no idea that my Father had a wife (or two) prior to my Mother and our life with Dad. I guarantee there was some whispering out in those pews. I have a brother that is 62 years old. My little brother is 38. My Father was Johnny Appleseed, no?

I can almost safely say that Dad never thought we’d all be in the same room together to compare notes. I tell you what, the pieces of the puzzle have come somewhat together in the last few days.

The other thing that hit me hard was the sheer volume of people present. They literally had to put folding chairs in the aisles. I saw people from my childhood that I have not seen in years. Over twenty years. All of these memories came flooding back instantly. As we were ushered into the “family room” before the service, I had to steady myself and regain composure. My eyes were welling up and my throat was aching. I was sincerely humbled by the presence of 4 of my best friends from HIGH SCHOOL. (Tina, Emily, Jenn and Michelle – THANK YOU) We’re not in touch that often but to see them walk through the doors of that church made my heart jump into my throat and I felt 16 all over again.

I saw so many people from so long ago that it almost knocked the wind out of me. People that met my Father years and years ago. Other folks that I have never seen before in my life and they hugged me or shook my hand and explained their relationship with my Father. Everyone knew Joe. EVERYONE. Like my little brother said in his eulogy, “even if you didn’t like him, you respected him”. So true. You had to respect someone with such brutal honesty and with such unapologetic personality. You just couldn’t help it. My Father was the kind of man that would tell you to “go to Hell” and you’d think you’d enjoy the trip.

My brother’s eulogy was certainly the highlight of the service. He literally said
” a-hole” (popeye and olive oil story-see previous posts) and “piss”. He carefully “motioned” a middle finger, thankfully. He knocked it out of the park. His eulogy was painfully raw and emotional, but sprinkled with colorful anecdotes about my Father and I owe him so much for being able to accomplish such a feat. I heard his voice shaking and prayed for him. I was also praying for myself to KEEP YOUR SHIT TOGETHER during this service.

You know what else I cannot get over? That he’s gone. I have prayed for the day that my Father would quit fighting and just let go and be at peace. The last few years have been the hardest of my life and his decline absolutely gutted me. Watching him go from this robust man to a withered shell was going to be the death of me, I thought. But you know what? Part of me is absolutely astounded that he’s gone. I “thought” that I had spent the last few years preparing for this exact event. No. NO NO NO. Nothing prepares you for the loss of a parent.

Part of me really (talk about denial) thought he would just keep going. Part of me came home every day thinking I’d see him again. Part of me would not allow myself to think that he actually could die. I just figured that he wouldn’t. As bad as things were in the end, there is now part of me that even misses that, because at least then I could still see him. I could smell him, if you know what I mean. He had a “daddy” smell. I could still kiss his head with his crazy bed-hair. I could still stroke his leg and let him know that I was there, by his side. I wasn’t there as much as I should’ve been but I will NOT allow myself to think about that because I did the best I could, I really, sincerely did. IT WAS FUCKING HARD. Really, really heart breakingly hard. I hope he knows that. I know he knows how much I loved him. I would tell him constantly. He used to say, “any asshole can be a Father, it takes someone special to be a Daddy”.

I don’t think I deserve a medal for my efforts. I’m not looking for praise. I did what any daughter would do for her Father. Yes, it sucked. Yes, it was difficult. Yes, it absolute SHIT on some days. I had no choice. The hardest thing and the right thing are often the SAME thing.
I am so blessed to have had that time with him. To be there for him when he needed me.

I remember back to last September ( check old posts) when I took care of him for 4 days and I said ” well, you changed my diapers, now it’s my turn”, and he replied “no shit”.

Oh, were that only true. (smile)

Yesterday was filled with more laughter than tears and I know he would’ve wanted it that way.

*The picture of Mr. Cooper is totally unrelated but that dog cannot stay away from the bur bushes in my back yard and it makes me laugh every time.

A little Peace of my Heart

So today I delivered my Father’s ashes to his widow. She’s been hit hard by his passing and I was not looking forward to this entire exchange. I was pleasantly surprised to see her in pretty good spirits when she answered the door.

I entered, handed her the box containing Dad and looked around. I was there the day after he died and things were a bit *askew* and I walked in and let my eyes adjust to the dim light. She’s cleaned. She’s rearranged things. She’s moving forward. I’m pleased.

Then I looked over to the main wall of their living room and stopped in my tracks.

Hop Sing has arranged a bit of a “shrine” (for lack of a better word) of photos of my Father. A display. As I approached it, I cringed inside and leaned forward. The cringe didn’t last long. Holy crap. I (with no exaggeration) laughed for fifteen straight minutes. She has put up a montage of pictures of my Dad and they are priceless. Dad is his underwear making pancakes (it’s okay, he’s wearing an apron). A picture of Dad, in jest, pretending to be Hitler(!), complete with German hat and a black marker mustache. A picture of Dad with two acorns up his nose. A picture of him with his hair tied in a rubber band on top of his head, being silly and mocking Asian hairstyles. Another of him with a shaving cream mustache recreating the “got milk” ads. Copious pictures of him “talking” to various statues and what not. HYSTERICAL. This is not a gut-wrenching tearful tribute, this is a celebration of his life and it did me a world of good to view them.

My Father had been failing for years and I guess I had become somewhat numb to his situation and just accepted it. After viewing these pictures, my heart leapt for the joy in which he lived his last years. Being silly. Making people laugh. ALWAYS going for the laugh, and usually at his own expense. He laughed almost every day of his life. Hard. Well, when he wasn’t telling people to go to hell.

I know he was this larger than life photographer. I know every bit of the history and I’ve seen all of the pictures, and yes, I’m duly impressed by his career and legacy.

However, to me, his biggest achievement……..?

Being my Daddy.

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