I am the baby of my family. A tail-ender far removed in both age and memories from my older siblings. My parents were forty years old with five children when I showed up in 1971, and they had to “start all over again”. I was in my early elementary years when my last sibling graduated from high school and left home. This meant that my parents and I were on our own for quite a few years before I flew away from the nest when I was 18. It was just the three of us for meals, church, trips to see my siblings, laughs, tears, and countless memories.
My father was bigger than life. Tall, handsome, brilliant, witty, sarcastic, successful, and I can honestly say that my fiery Irish temper and talent for getting the last word in on any argument were gifts from him. He demanded excellence from everyone around him because he demanded it from himself. I was the only teenager I knew that was required to watch “Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser” and then take (and pass) a current events test (created by Dad) every Friday before I could go out with my friends.
He taught me to ask tough questions, even if the answer wasn’t easy. To never be content with mediocrity. To never stop learning and to read as much as I could. Most importantly, he taught that hard work is the stuff that life is made of and to do less than your very best at all times is to cheat yourself.
My dad passed away when I was 21. He left this world in the blink of an eye and left a hole in my life that has never been filled. However, it has been his spirit that I felt near me when I have had to make tough decisions and when I have been less than kind to myself when I have made mistakes. It’s his approval I still seek, even though he’s now been gone from my life longer than he was in my life.
I have been very jealous of my friends’ relationships with their fathers. I’ve seen them dance with their dads at their weddings, show off their babies to beaming new grandfathers, and celebrate Father’s Day with gatherings at the lake and family dinners. My dad, while firmly etched in my memory, barely seems real to me anymore. I don’t fully remember the sound of his voice or his laugh, but I hear his words in my mind and my heart. I see him in the faces and mannerisms of my sons, and that is a blessing. My mother tells me I am more like him with each passing year, and I take that as a compliment.
I will always look to my dad for guidance and for answers. His presence is felt daily by the ones he left behind. So forgive me if I gloss over your Father’s Day posts, my eyes are a bit misty today.