Friday, June 17, 2011

Dad

Dear Dad,

This weekend we will celebrate Father's Day in as grand a fashion as you can handle.  Your health, while still not stabilized, controls everything that we do together now.  So, before we start down the highway to the local resort town on the river, and eat great food, I want to take you down my best memories of the greatest father ever.

My earliest memory of you is the day you brought Duchess home.  I'd been dragging that red bodied, yellow eared mess of a flop toy around for 3 years, I think you told me once.  I'd drag it to Steve's basketball games, and downstairs to see your mom who lived with us.  It slept with me at night and when at school, it topped the whilrling on wheels toy chest.  Mom, Steve, Mike and you went away for the day before I got up, leaving me behind.  I was crushed... until you came home with a 1 lb dachshund puppy named Duchess.  If you and Mom were king and queen, Steve, Mike and I the princes and princess, then our beloved new pup was the Duchess.  Did you always know my DNA was part canine?  For Duchess and I soon became inseparable unless you were home, in which case your lap was the preferred location.

I remember all those years of you waking up before 7 or 8 to watch cartoon on tv with me.  You'd have been out with Mom the night before but you were always up with me to see if the gang on "Land of the Lost" would finally make it out of inner Earth and the sleestaks would leave them alone; or we'd watch Scooby Doo (my first great dane love, btw).  You'd watch for a few hours, then attend to the house.  Remember that day you were using a blow torch to get the paint off our house in Duluth and almost fell off the ladder?  Or the time you were using some other piece of equipment and got severe CO poisoning?  We walked for blocks to get air back into you.  We'd walk up and down 30th and Hawthorne trying to get you to breathe right and finally, you did.  I also remember how after cartoons and house chores, you'd find time to use your arthritic hands to play catch with me, bare handed and I wailed the ball toward you unaware of how painful that must have been for you to catch.

I remember all the road trips we took together.  You'd haul me all over the states to meet customers, eat dinner in fancy restaurants (the ketchup on fine steak in Chicago should probably be a secret, eh???).  You'd leave me with money to shop with at the mall nearby where I'd walk, unaware that in today's society, we could not do that with our children.  Remember that time my kidney had failed and you had to give me some really nasty tasting bug crap to clean me out before I had those really ucky tests?  As I cried, you said never again... and you were right.

As I grew up, Duchess died, you got me Gretchen.  As I grew up, I saw less and less of you because Mother Motorola and that d-bag forced you to leave 5 days a week.  BUT come Friday, you were mine.  I remember all the times you'd play Monopoly or Scrabble or Sorry or Life with me; or take me to band concerts,or buy me new reeds, or take me to Bismarck so that I could escape the country living you'd had to move to for work.  I remember how you'd try to find a way for me to leave Mandan as I was hated there, and I hated it too... teenage days be damned anyway.  I remember you taking me back to Minnesota to see different aspects of civilization again - concerts, malls, awesome food!

I remember moving away and back to Minnesota for school.  Mom had tears in her eyes leaving me at school but you gave me a big hug and said, "Go get 'em!!!" with a broad smile so proud and so wide, that I knew you had faith in me.  When Austin was born and subsequently died, you were there first.  After Garret was born, you taught him how to crawl and how to walk and how to like Spamburgers. 

Now it is us who help take care of you and are deeply concerned for you.  It is us that are reminded of what a great man you are and have always been.

Last week when you said it was so hard to have your three caregivers exhausted from what is going on with your failing body, I heard you laugh loudly and long when I said, "Quite frankly, if it makes it easier for you to relieve the stress of how much this affects us, just remember, I don't give two shits about your health!"

And you laughed.  And then you laughed some more.  And then you said, "Ahhh, PJ, only you could do that for me."

Well, Dad, it's because I was raised by the only man who could have stood by my side through thick and thin, hard times and not so, who is the only man that I know has always, no matter what, loved me, and always made me laugh... loudly, and long.

So, on this Father's Day, all I can say is:

"Thank you."

And Dad?

I love you.

Forever, and ever, and ever...

PJ

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