When Jaime and I were little our parents dragged us to Hawaii on what was a bad enough trip that I hope to never return there. But there were two things I remember fondly. I remember being in a traditional jewelry store and I that we actually got pooka shell necklaces. We NEVER got gifts unless it was a birthday or Christmas. So this was huge. I think there was something to do with leaves dipped in gold, too, but that’s murky. But the best part was when dad rented a catamaran and took us girls out alone. We got going so fast and I remember having my feet overboard and dragging through the water as we sped through it. That was actually fun. And I hate water.
When we got back I got him a window sticker of a sailing ship that he put on the sliding glass door of his bedroom. The song ‘Sailing’ by Christopher Cross was popular and he loved that song. And for me it took me back to the catamaran. After we lost dad, Jaime and I got part of that song tattooed on us in his favorite color. “Just a dream and the wind to carry me, and soon I will be free…” I just asked Alexa to play it for me so I can hear it as I write this. It makes me smile. It was the perfect choice to represent the best parts of our dad. At times he was truly amazing. What a great sense of humor he used to have. Irreverent and quick and sarcastic. And sometimes so very bad that all you could do was groan. He did an excellent imitation of Inspector Clouseau- the Peter Sellers one. God he loved those movies. I more enjoyed him enjoying them. I could never really get there myself. But we all liked Steve Martin’s reboot which was a great thing. When answering machines were a thing he could do a great Clouseau outgoing message. It’s weird to think that’s all gone now. From answering machines to Alexa. Wow.
Dad loved camping and outdoor hikes. And because he knew so much about plants and rocks he was always teaching us about them. I’ll be damned if I remember any of it. But I love that he taught us anyway. He was so passionate about those things. It was just great to listen to him talk even if you knew you’d never remember any of it. I spent a great trip alone with him at the North end of the Grand Canyon. We went there because no one else did. He didn’t like people. He even had me hide behind some trees once on a hike so we wouldn’t have to make small talk with passersby. There was a great moon on that trip and I have pictures somewhere. I suppose I’ll have to look for those too.
Skipping over a lot of bad, there was the time he took us hiking through his creek not long after he had major heart surgery. And he was always taking us shooting- he thought it important that we knew how to handle firearms. And he’d drive his mule (a golf-cart-like thing) at reckless speeds though his actual driving had turned tortoise slow. Gone were the days when we sped along listening to Enya and he made up English words for her Gaelic songs. “Hard soup bones, hurt feetsies” was my favorite. But I swear I have no idea how he never dumped me out of that mule or turned the whole damn thing on it’s side. And then he’d skid to a stop to make sure he didn’t hit the snake sunning itself. That was the dad I choose to remember. The on that learned FaceTime so he could see his daughters. The one who admitted he wasn’t always good at things but he still tried. The one that made sure to always tell us he loved us just in case. The one that made an effort to be better than his mother. The one that could barely move from his hospital bed but kept raising his arms to try to hug us even though he couldn’t. The one hat nodded furiously that he loved us because he couldn’t talk with the tube in his throat.
I wish I could have shown him the beauty of Ireland and Scotland. I wish so many things. But right now, most of all, I wish I could wish him Happy Birthday and look forward to the next one. I wish I could be making plans to see him. I wish I could tell him about my new job he wouldn’t understand. So Happy Birthday, Papa. I miss you every day. But especially today. I love you.