Remembering my Dad on his birthday

Here is a story about my Dad that I wrote last year.

Dad young edToday my Dad would be 110 if he were alive. He died when he was 55 years old. He was a healthy, vibrant man who didn’t wake up one day. I was a child. Seeing death happen up close was a very surreal experience.

It all started around 1 a.m. on a cold winter night. I had a nightmare that my Dad died. I don’t know if I truly dreamed it or if I was unconsciously aware of the “goings on” which translated into a dream before I woke up.

All the lights in the house were on. My mother was frantic and my brother was calling people on the rotary phone (do you remember those? They took forever to dial). I climbed out of bed to see what was going on. My Dad was motionless in bed and my mother was close to hysterical. I was very scared.

A doctor came shortly and said he was gone. Nothing was ever the same again. There were people in the house all the time for what seemed like days on end. My father was “laid out” in the house for viewing. They did that in those days. Old German ladies came and said German prayers almost around the clock. People were bringing food but no one could eat. The atmosphere was eerie, part party, part intense sadness.

I think someone brought a keg of beer. The Irish aren’t the only ones who honor life with a celebration. After a couple of days the commotion died down and the people left. It was only when he didn’t come home from work that I really understood what had happened.

Back in those days, there weren’t any tests or unnecessary autopsies so we never knew what exactly happened. The doctor said it was a heart attack. Did he have high blood pressure or cholesterol or perhaps a birth defect? No on knows. He was a thin man who had a physical job so he was very fit. We will never make any sense out of it.

My parents when they were very young with my brother.

My parents when they were very young with my brother.

What I remember most about him was his devotion to family. Because I was born so much later than my two brothers, I was not only a novelty but exulted as her royal highness. My mother scolded him many times for catering to my whims. There were late night runs for potato chips. He encouraged me how to eat weird stuff like pickled lamb’s tongue and raw bacon and I did. He taught me how to work with wood. My brother swears that he had a lot more patience with me than he did with my brothers.

I remember that he wore Old Spice after shave. I still get a lump in my throat when I smell that.

My parents were married close to twenty years when I was born and he still treated my mother like a queen. If she gained a pound, he would declare that he liked a woman he could grip properly. He attributed any good things that happened to her. They occasionally bickered but of course, she was always right.

It took my mother a good two years to recover. In today’s world, she would have had therapy and probably been medicated. Back then, you talked to your friends and sobbed in your pillow. I remember she tried smoking cigarettes but that didn’t work so well. It made her barfy.

I missed experiencing a lot of things with him but I never miss his birthday. Happy birthday Dad!


24 thoughts on “Remembering my Dad on his birthday

  1. Hi Kate,

    I lost my dad in May of this year, he was 61 years old. His birthday is this Sunday. Sometimes I miss him so much it hurts. One night we were watching tv and laughing together and the next day he was dead. I still can’t believe he is really gone. I hope to one day be able to remember him without hurting so very much. Your tribute to your father was so very sweet. God Bless.


  2. … sigh. Thank you for introducing us to your Dad .. and your memories of him.

    My Dad sometimes wore Old Spice, too. And if I were to smell it again I know I’d turn my head to look for him.



  3. Kate, this is so moving. I didn’t have a good father and he lived too long. I wish I could have swapped their longevity so you could have enjoyed more of the good. I love your memories.


  4. What a great idea to honor your Dad like this every year. He was truly a handsome, vibrant looking man and what a wonderful father and husband. Your story is lovely and heartbreaking at the same time. Thank you for sharing.


  5. Sad, beautiful story. Times gone by when death was handled in such a different way than today. I’m sorry that he is gone and hope that writing about him today makes you feel a bit closer to him.


  6. A lovely story! I lost my dad at an early age too but because my parents had divorced before that, I was not as close to him as you were with yours. But, It isnever the same when you lose a parent…we lose that voice to talk to in times of need. Nice tribute to yours!


  7. I think we have a sixth sense about these things. I knew something was wrong with my dad. I was living in Toronto and my parents were living in Montreal but I had a bad feeling. I miss him like crazy too.


  8. Kate-this is a beautiful tribute to your dad and a great way to keep his memory alive. I too lost a young, vibrant and seemingly healthy father when I was a child; he was only 39 years old. And I also recall having dozens of people in the house for a week or two…and then how quiet the house was when they went away. I used to watch I Love Lucy reruns at 6:00 every evening and my dad almost always got home at 6:30, as the show was wrapping up. I don’t think I ever watched I Love Lucy at 6:00 again. I think our dads would be proud of the women we grew up to be.


    • I am so sorry. For a long time I felt like I was the only one who lost a parent so young. Mostly because all my classmates had Dads. I found out as I grew older that it’s much more common (sadly) than I thought.


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