I’ve been quiet for a few days on this blog for the most heart wrenching of reasons, and that is because our family lost my dad a few days before Thanksgiving. If you know me, or if you have been one of my wonderful readers for even a little while, you know what a hero my dad was to so many people, and what a role model he was for me. He was my biggest cheerleader, and he loved suggesting, sampling and reading about all the hundreds and hundreds of meals we all shared together, many of which ended up here with a mention of his love for whatever it is. One of my most-read posts was pretty much entirely his doing – the recipe for Grandpa’s Coca-Cola ribs is one that he made with pride and gusto. Every summer it rises to the top of my popular posts, and I always made sure to tell him that. Both of us got such a kick out of the fact that his ribs were probably showing up on so many picnic tables. So for this post, I’m not going to talk about food. I’m going to tell you a little more about my dad.
He loved so many people, places and things, but nothing so much as my mother.
He flat out adored her. I got so many compliments over the years that went like this: Kate, you look almost as beautiful as your mother! Kate, dinner was delicious – almost as good as your mother’s! And I took that as the highest praise, because in his eyes, my mother was and is the most beautiful, most talented person on the face of the earth. I love the pictures of their wedding, where my mom looks exactly like Grace Kelly and my dad simply looks like every single one of his dreams has come true and he kind of can’t believe it.
His grandchildren were the apple of his eye. So many of the messages I have gotten over the past few days start out by telling me that they were the way he started every conversation.
What they were doing, how perfectly they were doing it, and what they were doing next. As far as he was concerned, there was nothing more interesting or important to talk about.
He was a born and bred Northerner who loved the South and anything related to the Civil War. He was a passionately patriotic Coast Guard veteran who was also immensely proud of his Irish heritage. He was a voracious reader who would press his favorite books into the hands of anyone he thought might love them the way he did. Remembering how many times this happened to me I realize that he was a big part of why I became writer I have been all my life.
But most of all, what my dad gave to the world was his big, generous personality. He devoted himself to his friends and family as fully as he did everything else. He was so interested in people – truly, completely interested. He didn’t always agree with you – let’s just say that politics and sports were banned at my Christmas Eve dinners – but when you were with my dad he was richly there with you.
Lastly, my dad and I had a song. This was his idea, not mine, because I think people don’t usually have a song with their dad, but he picked one out for us, back in 1977 when I was in college. It was the song, You Light Up My Life, and over the years he would give me cards with the lyrics of it, he gave me a music box that played it, and at least a few times a month he would just randomly say to me, or sing to me, you light up my life. It was the last thing I said to him, and he said to me, “You have no idea how much.”
Oh, yes I do, Daddy. So as we head into the holiday season, hold your dear ones by the hand, and maybe make them a plate of my dad’s favorite ribs. He would love that.