My Fatherless Father’s Day

This Father’s Day is going to be different for me. It’s the first time in 46 years that I haven’t had a Daddy here to celebrate.

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Daddy, me and my sister. Summer 1974

My father passed away after a three year battle with cancer, on January 27, 2015, but it feels like only yesterday that he was still here. How is it possible that five months have passed when I think of him every day?

The reality of his passing hits in the most unexpected places. Just heating up the grill automatically brings me back to my dad. We always grilled out for Father’s Day, because his favorite food in the world was a “nice, juicy hamburger, hot off the grill.” I think of him the moment I smell the smoky scent of charcoal in the air and hear the sizzle of the burgers as they’re cooking. (And I’ll always think of him as I load my plate with more French fries than I should.)

I think of him whenever I get a funny or a political e-mail, and then my first thought is always, “Daddy will get such a kick out of this.” Then I’m crushed when I realize that he’s not here to get my messages any more.

I want to call him whenever I have good news, and I always have to think twice about calling him to let him know I got home safely. But I guess my guardian angel already knows that I’m safe.

I thought of him last month as my son graduated from the Fire Academy, and as my nephew graduated from high school. “Papa” was always encouraging them to do their best and to “Study hard!” Education was always so important to him, so it was hard on us for him to not be there to see how his guidance and support had led his grandsons to accomplish their goals.

I felt him last week when my husband and I went to the Georgia coast.  Daddy had a little fish camp there.  It’s nothing fancy, just a place where he could go and relax. As much as I love it, I was filled with dread at the thought of being there for the first time without him, knowing that there would be reminders of him everywhere.  Even something as simple as finding his old sneakers sitting on the floor by the bed drove me to tears. One time, I asked him why he loved it so much, and he replied, “Because I fit in here.”

But, amazingly, this time something else happened there.

I found my peace.

My favorite picture of my dad.  Summer 1970

My favorite picture of my dad. Summer 1970

To me, Daddy was everywhere because it was HIS favorite place. Sitting out on the dock at night, I could feel his kisses from heaven brushing against my cheek as the wind blew the salt air on my face.

And I smiled. Finally, I knew I was Daddy’s girl again.

Living without my dad has been a work in progress. I’m a work in progress, and being without him has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But I’m learning how to do it, because as he would say, “Life goes on. We’re only here for a little while, so make the most of it. Be a good person, and live your life well.”

This year, I will be spending Father’s Day without my dad.

But I know that my dad will be spending Father’s Day with his dad, and his Heavenly Father.

And as much as I miss him, I can’t be sad about that.

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Daddy’s Little Girl

All of my life my dad has been my hero. He was always there for me growing up and is still here for me now that I’m an adult. The strength and stability I always felt being in my Daddy’s arms can not possibly be measured. He would carry me on his shoulders when my legs were tired. He could do the best cannonball into the pool out of all the dads. When I was in trouble, he could put the fear of God into me with just a look. And when he’d jokingly ask me “What am I going to do with you???,” I’d say, “Just keep me and love me,” which he still does. 4887_94743471098_643154_n

And over the past year, he has fought cancer by having a stem cell transplant and will continue treatments for many years to come. He has always been strong – not only physically, but mentally – he’s a judge as well as retired military. (Yes, my upbringing was a little strict!)

Knowing that the next few years are going to have their ups and downs, there are some things I want him to know to help keep his spirits up. So this is for my Dad…

Dear Daddy,

I want to thank you for being so strict with me when I was a teenager. I used to think you were the meanest dad EVER for giving me a curfew of 10 p.m., but now that I am a parent, I realize that what you always said is true: “Nothing but trouble happens to a teenager after midnight.”

Thank you for letting me be Daddy’s little girl, but also Daddy’s little tomboy. Thank you for making sure I could take ballet and sewing classes, but I’m sure at some point you wished you had a son. I was as close to it as you got. I love going camping and doing everything outdoors because of you. You encouraged me to go outside and play so I never was really interested that much in TV -except for “The Donny Osmond Show” of course.

Thank you for insisting on meeting my (and Cathy’s) boyfriends, and giving them the kind of handshake that could break their hand and letting them know they were in for it if anything happened to me. Thank you for telling me straight off which boyfriends you liked, and which ones you clearly DID NOT. Looking back on several of my dating mistakes, I realize you did know what was best for me after all…if only I had listened!!!

Thank you for teaching me how to drive a stick-shift. Learning how to drive an “H” shift was pretty tough on the old F150, especially since it didn’t have power steering or power brakes, but I think it is something every girl should know how to do.

Thank you for teaching me manners. I have come to realize that “Yes ma’am” and “Yes sir” were not only polite when I was younger, but beneficial to me as an adult. These are traits I have passed on to Matthew as well and he, too, has seen how people react when they are treated with respect. 4887_94991191098_2137511_n

Thank you for loving me enough to give me boundaries. Although I didn’t get in too much trouble (because I was terrified of getting in trouble with you), I know I was not the easiest teenager to bring up. I got your stubbornness so I’m sure you saw some of yourself in me! And even though I never wanted to hear it, I thank you for loving me enough to tell me “NO” some times.

Thank you for teaching me to be financially responsible and hiding my first credit card from me when it came in the mail. You taught me that if I can’t buy it with cash, then I don’t need it. This is a lesson many never learn until later in life. You taught me that just because my friends may have new cars, big houses and go on luxurious trips, they are also probably swimming in debt. Because of you, our only payment each month is for our house, and if we don’t have the cash for other things that we want, then we save up for them.

Thank you for teaching me how to stand up for myself. As a single mom for almost 10 years, I had to handle things that can be foreign to many women, such as getting work done on my car. If you hadn’t taught me how to watch when someone was about to screw me over, I would have probably would have been financially taken advantage of numerous times.

Thank you for showing me what true love is. After 52 years of marriage (and counting!) you and Mama have shown me that marriages have good times and bad times, but you stick with each other and are there for each other no matter what. Watching you reach over and grab Mama’s hand just while driving in the car makes me smile.

Thank you for teaching me to treat everyone with the same respect. The circle of friends you have surrounded yourself with come from every race, gender, and sexual orientation and EACH ONE of those friends considers you to be a very good friend to them. What an amazing example you lead!

Thank you for teaching me right and wrong. Even when Mom got a speeding ticket in a different city, you never even considered contacting the other judge to get it erased. Instead you told her that since she was in fact speeding, that she needed to pay the $250 fine. I respected that so much more than you will ever know. So many others in your position would have “called in a favor” but you didn’t – and I love that about you.

Thank you for trusting me when I announced ‘I’m getting married!!!” only four weeks after meeting Dale. Although I’m sure you ran a background check on him, you still trusted me enough to officiate our wedding ceremony. To this day, that memory makes me smile. And thank you for setting the kind of example a good husband is. When I first met Dale, I was amazed at how many similarities the two of you share and I knew immediately that if he was anything like you, I had a keeper.4887_94743461098_2165253_n

I hope you are proud of me for what I have accomplished in my life. Everything I have in my life, in some way or another points back to you. Your guidance has led me to where I am and who I am today.

And although we know the next couple of years are going to be both good and tough, please know that I plan on taking care of you and Mama as you have ALWAYS taken care of me. Cathy and I will be the strong ones for you this time.

I’m all grown up now, but I am and always will be, Daddy’s little girl.

Let me carry you on my shoulders now.

Why March Is A No Nookie Month

Nineteen years ago today, my life changed in a way I never could have imagined:

I became a mom.

It all started with the infamous “blizzard” of 1993 in Atlanta, GA. We actually got enough snow that year to cover the street, which, if you are familiar with living in the South, means that all normal ways of life come to an absolute stand-still.

It’s pretty simple. We don’t know how to drive in the snow. It is rare that we see more than an inch of it at a time. Even the mere mention of the word “snow,” people will flock to the grocery store to stock up on bread and milk even though the snow more than likely won’t last past 11 a.m. the next morning.

Such was the case in March, 1993. What started off as snow flurries quickly turned into what would be soon plastered across the news as a “blizzard”. Anyone living North of Tennessee would have considered it a light dusting, but people in Atlanta were in a panic. You would think us Southerners will begin to contemplate cannibalism if we can’t get enough bread and milk to last us a few days.

Then the power went out.

With no power and no backup generator, what was a young newlywed couple to do?

Five weeks later, I was in for quite a surprise.

I made an appointment with an OB and soon found out that my husband and I weren’t the only ones who lost power. A RECORD number of pregnancies were reported that year and they were all due in December.

Fast forward eight more months.

My son was actually due on my mother’s birthday, which is Christmas Day, but he had other plans.

For the first time in his life, he came early and showed up on my father’s birthday – December 9.

Now that would be a coincidence in itself, right? Due on my mother’s birthday but born on my father’s birthday?

December 9, 1993

December 9, 1993

What is really interesting is that my father has a brother and three sisters. Three out of five children were born on December 9. And when my sister was pregnant, her due date was also December 9 (but he broke tradition and arrived two days later.)

December 9, 2012

December 9, 2012

March, it appears, is a very fertile month in my family.

And as we celebrate the lives of two of the most wonderful men that I have in my life, I am also thankful that I have an equally wonderful and understanding husband. Because he knows that March is officially EXTRA SAFETY MONTH in the romantic department at the McIntyre house.

Just in case.