Today is a day I choose to celebrate my dad.
Indulge me as I take a little trip down memory lane with some good times with my dad…
It was one of the proudest days of my life when I birthed The Grunter way back in 1989.
He is our only child born in the Midwest. Upon learning I was pregnant just seven months after the car crash in Florida, we moved to Illinois so I could be close to my parents.
We didn’t know the sex of the baby and I was quite sure it was a girl.
Ah, but life is full of surprises and we were the proud new parents of a baby boy. Grandma and Grandad got to come to the hospital hours after his birth. We kept the name we picked a surprise too. So when Grandad arrived at the hospital, it was a moment that is frozen in time for me. I introduced him to his first grandson and his namesake (in reverse).
Grunter The meet The Grunter. Okay, not really but I can’t reveal The Grunter’s real name here on the internet. So you’ll just have to imagine. (Something like PhilBillPaul meet PaulBillPhil–say that three times fast.)
We stayed in the Midwest for 8 months after The Grunter was born and we made the most of our months there. We enjoyed Friday night fish dinners at the local restaurants, Bears football and played euchre on the weekends.
My dad and PhilBillPaul always got along great. Such a rare gift when the in-laws love your spouse. Together they had a wicked sense of humor and loved to make my mom and me squeal.
But then we moved to Georgia. Our weekly visits became two or three times a year. We added two more grandchildren to his growing brood which topped out at eleven.
The twins were as big a surprise to us as was having a son! It took him a long time to attempt to hold the girls together–admittedly they were a handful. He was almost as overwhelmed as we were with two babies and a two year old.
We spent several Christmas holidays in the Midwest when the first three kids were babies and toddlers. Later, we opted to stay in Georgia and create our own family holiday traditions but I look back at those years fondly.
He was always genuinely excited when we visited. One year he waited patiently for our arrival so he could show the kids his new hair. On our previous visit, The Grunter had asked him where his hair went. When we walked in the living room, there was Grandad donning his new hair.
My dad always made time to be with my kids. He got down on the floor and read books. He colored with them and he played games with them. He almost always adjusted his schedule when we visited so he could spend time with us. I got to watch my dad love my kids unconditionally.
He taught them to play chess. It took a lot of patience to get Roger Leroy to sit still. Luckily, he had lots of patience.
For six years in a row, we traveled to the Midwest for a Labor Day family reunion in Indiana and would spend some time in Illinois with my parents. It was an easier time to travel without the ice and snow and the chaos of the holidays. And if there is a good time to be in the Midwest, September is a glorious month!
My dad loved golf. Absolutely LOVED golf. He played every day that he could and sometimes twice a day. At his best, his handicap was 4. He was an excellent golfer.
He taught us to play in the 5th grade and made us count every single stroke. I was very proud of that first round score of 56…on THREE holes. In spite of my score, he was also an excellent teacher. He didn’t just teach us how to hit the ball; he taught us the etiquette of the game which was every bit as important to him as a good drive off the tee box.
Out of the four kids in my family, my brother and I are the ones who still continue to play. I have improved a little. My brother has improved a lot.
When my kids got big enough, he promised to take each one to ride in his red Harley golf cart while he played a round. He waited until they were old enough to understand how to sit and watch quietly and enjoy the beauty of the course. It was a magical thing to witness.
This day was Wizzy’s turn. Excuse me, he never let us drive the cart?! In fact, he usually made us walk.
Roger Leroy never got her turn…
Today marks eight years ago to the day that he died. He had just turned 60 in December of 1999.
He passed away 2 short months later in the home he loved with just me and my mom there. We promised we wouldn’t take him back to the hospital he hated so much.
It was my privilege to be there in those final days.
Life is made up of challenges and chaos and of moments and milestones. Every once in a while, there is a perfect moment. Sometimes you don’t get to take a photo of that moment.
But sometimes you do.
My favorite video is my dad sledding with my kids when we flew up to Illinois spontaneously for the weekend because The Grunter said he “wanted to make footprints in the snow.”
Be here now. Stop and make footprints. It is so worth it. Make sure you make the time to tell those important people in your life how much you love them. Visit them. Hug them. Call them today.
Treasure the moments. Take lots of pictures. Learn how to use that camcorder. I just cannot express how priceless those moments on film and dvd are to us.
Treasure each other in the recognition that we do not know how long we shall have each other. –Joshua Loth Liebman
This is the last grainy, poorly lit photo I have of my dad. It is one of only two photos I have of him with Scary Baby. She was just one month old when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma–a particularly painful and hideous cancer.
She was five months old in this picture. Five months later he was gone.
Time doesn’t heal all wounds. If you’ve lost a parent or loved one, then you already know this.
Love and time – those are the only two things in all the world that cannot be bought, but only spent. –Gary Jennings
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him and miss him.
Some day maybe I’ll tell you some bad, funny stories about him.
As I smile and celebrate his life, especially today, I thought this would be a fitting close.
Two years after his death, I made a small tribute album with all the pictures of him with my kids that I could find. The album helps us to
always remember and here is what I wrote on the last page…
I thank God that he was able to see each of my children and he knew that Daddy and I made a good and happy life for our family. Most of all, I am at peace knowing that this man who raised me as his own daughter since I was three years old…this man who I never referred to as my step-dad even though that is what the world might call him…this man who made a life for my mom and me, supported us, paid the bills, created a home and made us all a family…this man who never judged me and quietly believed in me through those tough teen years…this man who taught me the game of golf and so many other things about life…this man knew in his head and his heart through my words and my actions that he was the only dad I’ve ever known and loved with all my heart…
Thanks for indulging me today so I could remember and celebrate
a kind, funny, patient man. My dad.