It’s Fathers Day, and after 43 years of phone calls and presents I no longer have anything to plan for. My dad died October 2012. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long already
Dad met my mom when I was about 18 months old. After they married he adopted me. Entering my life that young, I never thought of him as a step-father. He was my Daddy. Growing up, whenever the topic came up with my friends they’d ask me if I’d ever met my real dad. I didn’t like that. I have no memory of life without him, and certainly no memory of the unintentional sperm donor who begat my existence.
Dad was always there to do what a dad does. He taught me to ride a bike, took me to the park and the beach, and read to me at bedtime. He was at all my birthday parties and both graduations. He spent hours putting my toys together on Christmas Eve and eating Santa’s cookies. One year he spent four hours and 3 scotches putting together a dollhouse, only to hear me exclaim Christmas morning, “Look, Daddy, Santa put one of the walls in upside down!”
He came to my room when I had bad dreams or was scared of the wind, which was my personal night terror. As soon as my parents heard the wind start to whistle, they knew they had less than 60 seconds before a tiny, tremulous cry of “Mommy” floated down the hallway. Twice he raced into my room and carried me to safety during a fire, one in the basement and another when someone poured gas into my mother’s car and threw a match. He scrutinized every boy who came to the house with his intimidating glare and too-tight handshake, an interview my husband, 5’3” and 100 lbs soaking wet at the time, remembers all too well. He walked me down the aisle at both weddings. He was there half an hour after his first granddaughter was born, and hot on the heels of the other two. Therein followed years of him taking my kids to the park, and out for dinner and ice cream, and lots of holiday and birthday loot. They were the apple of his eye.
I miss so much about my dad. He played piano by ear and could play any song after hearing it only once. Growing up, he was a familiar sight to my friends, outside working around the house every weekend. They used to joke “You always know where Lisa McBride lives – just look for the guy cutting the lawn – or washing the car.” He used to bore me to death with his road trip stories, like how the Holland Marsh came into being. We regularly took weekend trips to Toronto when I was young, and he told me that story whenever we drove through the area on our way to the city. Every single time. Both ways.
He would go jogging down the path through the bush beside our house every day. More than once I almost got caught smoking with friends, or smooching with Steve, by my dad who would suddenly appear out of the trees and jog right past the long grass we were hiding in, frozen with fear and holding our breath until he was out of sight.
He took me tobogganing at Little Lake Park every winter for my birthday parties, dragging kids back up that big hill over and over. He supervised the games at all my birthday parties in the days when Pin the Tail on the Donkey was still considered cool. He took every chance to educate me, encouraging me to read, study and question, and telling me lengthy stories about historical events or his family tree research, two topics he was passionate about. I often thought he would have made a good university professor.
Now everything about my dad is in the past. When I visit mom I see his clothes in the closet, hanging untouched. His workbench with his tools, and a little figurine I bought him over 30 years ago that says “World’s Best Dad.” Two bookshelves still holding the books that were on his shelves in 1979. The last remnants of a life lived, and ended. Eventually it will all be gone, and the only evidence of his existence will be our memories, and our photographs.