Dear Dad…..

I got the call from Lesley this morning at 6:00am.  I can’t even imagine the strength it took for her to make that call – having to somehow find the words to tell me that my Dad had passed away last night.  She did the best she could…. tried so hard to be gentle.  I lost my shit anyway.  I didn’t hear anything she said beyond, “He’s gone.”  I couldn’t hear anything over the sound of my own screaming and wailing.

There were no questions at that moment – Why?  When?  How?  It didn’t matter.  All that mattered was that yesterday you were here, and now you’re gone.  And with you, all the memories we had yet to create.

You just retired a week ago.  You were counting down the days until retirement for the last few years – couldn’t wait to practice your golf swing, and start racking up the miles on your bicycle.  You spent the last fifty years busting your ass, and you were finally going to enjoy some well-deserved rest and relaxation.  I could practically hear the smile in your voice over the phone as you told me about how you were going to sleep in as late as you wanted on your first day of freedom.

I should have called you to find out how it felt to not have to wake up to an alarm clock that morning.  I thought of calling you a dozen times this past week, but when I finally dialed your number, it was too late.

I got your answering machine….

“Hey Dad, it’s Linda.  I’m calling you in the middle of the day just because I can now – we’re finally on the same schedule.  How cool is that?!  I hope you’re out playing golf or doing something fun.  Give me a call back when you can.  Love you.”

But that’s not all I wanted to say…..

Had you been there to pick up the phone, I would have told you that I had thought a lot about our birthdays coming up – you were turning 70 and I was turning 40 this summer.  I wanted to say that I didn’t want anything from you that came in a box.  That suggestion I made about the diamond earrings was just a joke.  We both know I’m not the diamonds-are-a-girl’s-best-friend type.  They would go horribly with my converse sneakers.

What I wanted more than anything was a memory.  Growing up with hundreds of miles between us, we didn’t have much opportunity to create memories together.  Jobs, kids, crazy schedules, and the physical distance always seemed to get in the way.  I think we were both counting on your retirement clearing away some of those obstacles, and finally allowing us some time to get to know one another better.  I know I was counting on it.  I didn’t realize just how much until that time was taken away from me with one phone call.

I feel grief-stricken.  Robbed.  Angry.  Regretful.

I’m mad at myself for taking so much for granted.  Even though your health wasn’t the best these past few years, I still stupidly thought you would be there to create all the memories I had only dreamt about.  I was going to share one of those dreams with you over the phone that day….

I imagined us going on one of your 30-mile bike rides together this summer; both to commemorate our milestone birthdays and to stubbornly prove that age is just a meaningless number.  I thought one or two days of pedaling together, bitching about the hot Florida heat, and laughing at all the old-timers in spandex bike shorts, sounded like the perfect birthday present.  Then at the end of the day we’d compare sore muscles to see whose ass hurt more, and you’d attempt to teach me how to cook one of your signature dishes – all the while I’d be nodding my head, but hopelessly lost.  After dinner you’d insist on topping off the meal with dessert – who am I to argue with homemade strawberry shortcake?  But it would taste extra sweet that night because we’d know that we earned every one of those delicious calories.

That’s just one of a thousand would-be memories I have swimming around in my head right now.  I’m trying desperately to hang on to the happy memories we did manage to create and let go of the rest, but I have to admit that right now I’m not having much luck.

I can’t promise that the sting of regret won’t taint those happy memories, but here’s what I can promise:

I promise to take that 30-mile bike ride this year, even though I won’t have you pedaling by my side.

I promise to honor both of our weight loss efforts, and pass up on more donuts than I eat…. I can’t promise the same about coffee cake – but I know you’ll understand.

I promise to make the most out of the gifts you gave me:  your sarcastic sense of humor, your love and talent for the written word, and your immense capacity to love anything on four furry-feet.

I promise not to complain too much about some of the physical traits I inherited from you:  the odd long torso/short legs combo, the ability to gain weight when even pondering a trip to Dunkin’ Donuts, and that deep crease I get in between my eyes when I’m looking at someone like they’re nuts.

I’d like to ask you to promise me something in return.  Promise me that there is something beyond this crazy, fucked up world where nobody seems to ever get what they deserve.  Promise me that you’ll do your best to protect and comfort those of us who are still stuck down here, missing you.  And promise me that when it’s my time to go, you’ll be waiting there for me.

I hope there are bicycles in heaven….


40 thoughts on “Dear Dad…..

    • Thanks, Noreen. I’m trying to cherish what memories my Dad and I made through the years. It’s just really hard not to think about all the time I wish we still had. But then again, I guess there’s never enough time, no matter how much you’re given.

    • I wrote this blog post within hours of getting that phone call from my step-mother. While it was difficult to wade through all feelings I was having at the time, it was also incredibly cathartic – it poured out of me, almost without thought. This one was pure feeling – which is unlike me. I usually edit the hell out of everything I write, and critique everything, right down to the punctuation. This one was was written in just an hour or two, and then published without a second glance back.

  1. Linda, I’m still sitting here staring at the computer screen, trying to comprehend your beautiful letter to your dad. I am so sorry for your loss and wish there were words that would make you feel better. Remember that we love you and your family and will be praying for you all. Love, Aunt Sandy and Uncle Bill

    • Aunt Sandy – Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. This past week has been an emotional hell on Earth, and I haven’t had the desire or energy to do ANYTHING. But I appreciate your kind, heartfelt sentiments and support. I’m sending all the love right back to you and Uncle Bill ❤

    • Uncle Fred – Thank you SO much for reading my blog and leaving your beautiful comment. I really appreciate it.

      I can’t believe he’s gone either. I’ve been walking around in a total fog this week, and every once in awhile, the reality that I’m never going to see his face again, hear him crack a joke, or whistle along to the radio hits me, and my feeling of grief is almost too much to bear. But the support and love of my family is what’s getting me through right now. So, thank you ❤

  2. Linda,
    This is so beautifully written and a perfect tribute to your relationship with your Dad. I am so sorry for this tremendous loss and I wish I could say something to make you feel better. You are very much loved. My thoughts are with you and your family… Love Nancy

    • Nanny – Thanks for posting such a heartfelt comment. Even though we haven’t spoken to each other in a long time, I know you are always there when I need you. I miss you! We’ll talk soon….

    • It is crazy how quickly life can change – literally overnight. Further proof that we should never take anyone or anything for granted. Life seems to keep trying to teach me that lesson….

    • Thank you. I’m not sure if it was so much brave as it was necessary. I think this is what us writers do – when something is eating away at our brain and threatening our sanity, we HAVE to get it out. And writing is the vehicle we use to bring some focus and serenity back into our lives – even when that seems like an impossible task. This blog post nearly wrote itself – my inner editor took a vacation day and the words just poured out, totally uncensored.

    • Thank you so much. I appreciate you taking the time to express your condolences. I don’t know how much comfort I’m going to find in the coming months, but I’m hoping that eventually all my regret will subside, and in its place, I’ll be left with the simple knowledge that my Dad and I loved each other, and we did the best we could with the hand we were dealt. Eventually….

  3. Dear Linda,
    I am deeply sorry for your loss.
    Let me attempt to translate into English a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke,who was one of the greatest German writers/poets:

    Death is mighty.
    We are His own,
    even while laughing.
    When we fancy ourselves in the midst of life,
    He dares to weep,
    right in our midst.

    Love, Miriam

  4. I have two bloggers that are my inspiration. You are one of them and the other is completely insane (The Bloggess) and I love her dearly for it. I haven’t checked your blog for awhile and I was just thinking of my dad as I heard he wasn’t feeling so good through my mom. So, I sent a quick message on facebook saying I would call this weekend. In the meantime, I read your post. As always, I am amazing by your truly wonderful writing but your message hit home strong. Thank you for sharing and reminding us that time is passing. I will call my dad tonight. I will not wait.
    I also will make sure I check your blog much more regularly!

    • WOW – one of the best comments I’ve received to date. You made me happy on two accounts:

      First, the fact that you put me in the same sentence as The Bloggess – I LOVE her!! Hysterically funny lady. She makes me want to run out and buy something dead and stuffed.

      Secondly, that I made a real difference with someone out there in cyberspace. So often I wonder if my words are falling on deaf ears. But knowing that you will be picking up the phone to talk to your Dad tonight (because of something I wrote) makes me very happy. I’m so sorry to hear that he isn’t feeling well, but no matter how much time you two have left together, cherish it. Leave nothing unsaid because regret sucks ass.

  5. Ok. I officially love you. You made me cry. You and Bloggess are definitely literary sisters. Your blogs were separated at birth. (I can’t believe I finally used “literary” in a sentence. I feel so very smart and cultured now. Thank YOU!)

  6. Hi Linda…I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. This is actually the first time I’ve visited your blog and I’m sitting here crying my eyes out but also amazed at what a beautiful write you are. Our years together were mostly spent playing dolls and tag and having sleepovers….I remember your mom and sister Amy being so present in our lives back then and didn’t really realize that your dad wasn’t in the daily picture. I wish you peace in the days ahead. Lots of love! Tara McGonigal Coppola

    • Tara –

      Thanks for stopping by my blog for the first time and for the sweet, nostalgic note. Believe it or not, I’m actually a humor writer… though you certainly can’t tell from this entry. But that’s life- sometimes there’s nothing funny about it.

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