I went to call my dad today. I’m planning a family vacation to Cape Cod, and wanted to reminisce about the times he took our family to New England when I was a kid and we all holed up in one hotel room, crashed in a king bed, went to music concerts and outlet shopped together (oh, how he loved a bargain). Thing is, my dad died in March of 2011.
I still regularly get the urge to call him. I have these weird fantasies about cell-phone service to heaven (and, yeah, I’m guessing the connection might not be too good). Recently, my husband accidentally erased Dad’s phone number from my iPhone. I put it right back in.
People who lose limbs, or part of them, talk about phantom pain. I have the emotional equivalent, the feeling as if my dad is still here two-plus years after he’s been gone. He was such a driving force in my life. I always knew he was a great dad, but with the passing of time I realize more and more what an incredible influence he had on my life.
My father gave me a love for lessons. When I was 10, every Saturday morning Dad drove me to a fabric shop where I learned to sew (my idea). I also took ballet, jazz and piano. He never said no to any lessons I wanted to take. Once, he got me a calligraphy pen, a pad of special paper and an instructional book after I told him I wanted to learn that. He also once inexplicably brought home an accordion, which sat in a closet for years before we donated it. My daughter’s got the lessons bug, and I also never say no—piano, violin, jazz dance, hip-hop, art. I want to open up her mind, just as my dad did for me.
My father taught me to plan weekend fun. He always came up with great activities for me and my younger sister—local puppet shows, the ballet, concerts in the park. I think of him at times when I’m scanning our local parent magazine, looking for weekend things to do with the kids.
My father made me nutrition savvy. I have early memories of going to health food store and scooping wheat germ and millet into baggies. The man grew his own sprouts. We had fights on Sunday mornings about this bran-filled oatmeal concoction he made from scratch. “I’m not taking you to the park till you eat it!” he’d proclaim, and eventually I’d cave. Now I give my children bran cereal for breakfast and try to lay low on junk food. I think of him when I sprinkle chia seeds on fat-free Greek yogurt, and give an extra dash in his honor.
My father passed down the newshound gene. Dad kept a pile of newspapers by his place at the dining room table, and was known to pick one up before dessert. Sometimes, my sister and I brought books to meals and we’d sit there in the comfortable silence, immersed in reading. Dad instilled a lifetime love for books and magazine in me, one reason I went on to become a magazine editor. In 1998, he read about something interesting in the paper and called to tell me about it. “There’s this new thing called Google, and you can look up anything on it,” he said. “I think it’s going to be big.” Dad was still coherent when I started a blog for parents of kids with special needs (my son, Max, has cerebral palsy). He never did get a computer, but I’d print out posts and bring them to him. His pride in what I was doing still fuels my writing.
My father got me revved about tech. Dad was fascinated by all things gadgets and tech, whether it was some little hand thingie you could clench to exercise your arms or the latest, greatest tape recorder (what used to pass for high-tech). He would have been so wowed by the evolution of apps. The other day the kids and I hailed a taxi using Hailo for the first time, and I thought of him. Dad would have been awed by Google Maps. Soon after he died, we were in Florida and ended up behind a Google mapping truck, complete with roof satellite. The kids weren’t nearly as excited as I was. Dad, I sure hope you’re catching this from above, I thought.
My father taught me the value of a good deal. Every Sunday morning, religiously, dad clipped coupons. Never my mom, just my dad. He genuinely enjoyed it. When I hit Retail Me Not for a coupon code, or visit deal blogs like my friend Sara’s Saving for Someday, I think of the field day he would have had browsing them. Surely he is watching me, pumping his fist into the heavens when I score 30 percent off at Kohl’s.com.
Lately, I’ve been calling my mom every morning as I walk to work. I am hyper-aware that she’s getting older, and I want to connect with her as much as I can. My dad, I can’t call, and I mourn that. But he lives on every single day—in my parenting, in my habits and in my heart.
Photo source: istock