I Still Miss My Dad

imageMy father passed away 31 years ago this summer. It’s easy to remember because it’s the same year my wife and I were married. The last time we saw him was when he and my mom drove up from Pittsburgh to come to our wedding. The wedding was a small private affair, I didn’t expect them to make the 9-hour drive but somehow I knew he would. I also knew that he would fight with me to pay the bill at our “reception.” If I had known that it would be the last time we would be going out at dinner together, I would have let him pay.

My dad was only 60 years old when he died. I will be turning 60 later this year, and I realize exactly how not old 60 is. I think of the things I am still planning to do in my life, and I feel sad knowing that he must have had similar plans. More selfishly, I look back over the things I’ve done in the 31 years since he’s been gone and I think about all the times he could have helped me. Less selfishly, I know that there would have been times that I could have helped him and I could have learned even more things working at his side. He would have been too old to provide much hands-on help when I ripped the roof off our house and turned a Ranch into a Gambrel. But he would have had a great time sitting in a lawn chair yelling up at me to make sure I did things right. He would have been proud and some of the happiest moments in my life were when I knew my dad was proud of me.

I was always proud of him!

My dad worked his entire life. While my brother and I were living at home and later while we were attending college, he worked two jobs. He was a mailman, and for the longest time, he managed a bowling alley in the evenings. After the bowling alley closed, he tended bar. He didn’t drink, but he tended bar. He retired from the Post Office when he was 55 but he continued tending bar and he worked other part-time jobs during the day. He also ran a small business repairing golf clubs and making custom golf clubs. He was very good at all those things. I remember visiting my folks in Pittsburgh one year when someone delivered a long box. At first we all figured that it was an order of shafts or something. Nope. Inside was a brand new set of woods that a previous customer had bought after moving to Denver, CO. There was also a signed blank check and a note:

John, you know how I like my clubs. Fix ‘em up and fill out the check for whatever you want.”

My dad was a sports fan and an athlete. He had played semi-pro football after he returned from WWII, and he could pick up any other sport and play it well. He took up golf in his early 40’s and by the time he got off the waiting list of a local golf club, he was regularly in contention for the top prizes. My brother was pretty good imageat sports. I mention that because I was not. I tried a few different sports, I made an effort, but talent, size and coordination were lacking. I tried golf. I was terrible, but I tried. Late in his life, I agreed to play a round with him. He had moved his golf club business into a building at a local country club. In exchange for starting the early foursomes, they gave him the room for free. They also let him play for free. We made it 3 holes when he turned to me and said: “maybe this isn’t your game” and we headed back to his shop.

His arrangement with the country club enabled him to play, golf, all, the, time.

The country club closed every year after they held their New Year’s Eve party. The owner and his family went to Florida for 4-6 weeks. One year, it got very warm in January. Some people showed up and wanted to golf. My father let them. The warm spell lasted a few days. He collected fees and when the owner returned, he handed him over $2,500 in cash.

My dad had a heart attack while playing golf and died shortly after arriving at the hospital. So many people came to his wake with a golf ball to place next to him that you could hear the balls rolling around as they moved the casket at his funeral.

I think of my dad often. When I’m working on our house, when I’m working in my shop, when I’m watching the Steelers or the Pirates win and especially when I’m watching them lose. I laugh when I think of what he would be saying. He could string cuss words together better than anyone. I think of him when I visit my brother. We both take after our dad, but I see it in my brother more than I recognize it in myself. He’s still with me in spirit, and I’ll do my best to keep that spirit alive.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day in the US, so happy Father’s Day to every dad.

71 thoughts on “I Still Miss My Dad

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  1. I am my Mama’s boy and always will be. I miss my mom and dad both and your article made me somewhat nostalgic. On 12 August 1994, I said Good Night to my dad, but I had no idea that would be the last time, my dad never woke up in the morning. He had passed away in his sleep.

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  2. What a great remembrance Dan. Obviously a great man. You have a lot to live up to but im sure you are just as much the man that he was. Happy Fathers Day.
    Katie

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  3. Your post is very moving, especially because I lost my father one year ago. You’ve already written about your dad and the bowling alley, but you share much more here. Your father would be happy to know that he played such a significant role in your life and still does. Beautiful homage to your father for Father’s Day.
    Happy Father’s Day to you and the dads who read your blog.

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    1. Thank you. I’m sorry for your loss. It’s never easy to lose a loved one. He creeps into my posts from time to time. The post you remember was one of those that I never planned to write. Sometimes I write something as a reaction to something in the news. That did use up some of my notes, but it’s hard (for me) to save ideas for long periods of time :)

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  4. Wonderful post. Really good descriptions — loved the golf ball tribute — very touching and telling. I’m sorry you’ve lost your dad. My parents are now retired and work on a private golf course for the benefits of playing free. I wonder how many people will bring my dad golf balls…He’s 75 now, and I hope it’s a long time from now.

    Also, although I knew you were older than I, because of how long you mention you’ve been married, but I didn’t realize you were 59, which is almost a generational difference between us. I never was good at being young, lol.

    Happy Father’s Day to you :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope your folks are around a long time too. My mother is 89, 75 isn’t that old. Approaching 60, I have a whole new definition of old.

      I always figured people would pick up on the references and kinda-sorta guess my age. I don’t really think about it much. I follow some people who have surprised me with their age and, in a few cases, their gender.I guess it’s true, “on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

      Thanks for the comment and Happy Father’s Day to your Mister.

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  5. This was a lovely post, Dan. I’m glad you have such fond memories of your dad. It’s terrible to lose loved ones at any time, but it sometimes feels worse when they’re young. As you said, all the things that they’ll miss, and that you’ll miss doing with them. My mom was only 45, and she’ll have been gone 14 years next month. You never stop missing them, but how much more do we appreciate the time we had with them. And hopefully we learn to better love the people we still have now.

    God bless you and yours. Your dad is surely smiling down and missing you too.

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    1. Thank you Wendy and thanks for the tip as to where to find your comment. I’m sorry that you lost your mom at such an early age. I’m sure I would have felt bad no matter when he passed away, but between it being sudden and my being young, it was pretty hard. I’m sure you understand. I do feel that he’s watching.

      Thanks so much.

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    1. Thanks. By the time I began to understand how hard he had worked, it was almost too late. Fortunately, I spent a lot of time working alongside him, so I did have more time with my dad than most kids get.

      I wish I had more information about his military service. I have a friend who is tracing his grandfather’s service through the Pacific Theater for a book that he’s writing. I hope that comes to fruition so that I might glean a little from that. I’ve also enjoyed some of your posts. I have a good picture of him in uniform, maybe by year, I’ll be able to piece something together.

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        1. That is a picture of him. I have a picture of him in uniform too. I have to dig into some records to find the unit he was in. He was a mechanic (Quartermaster Corps) in the Army and he was in New Guinea and in the Philippines but I don’t know the dates. If I get more information, you can be sure that I’ll reach out.

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  6. Hi Dan. My Dad was taken ill in 1990 when we were away on holiday. We had a late night 200 mile dash to get back as my son (19 at the time) was the only one around. By the time we got to the hospital, Dad had gone. He was a very well educated man who had a lot of hard luck in his life but he had so much time to tell me and show me everything that he could in life. He was one of these people that you could take your troubles to. He didn’t know much about currency market stresses or the problems of running your own business but he would always listen and give me sound advice. I miss him so much.

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  7. Dan – I’m sorry you lost your father so many years ago, but clearly he has been with you in so many ways through your own adult years. I am always struck – when men speak so lovingly and admirably of their fathers – that your own children will some day be speaking of you living your life with the same integrity, resolve, joy and values that you learned from their grandfather. It’s an evolution of our families at the deepest level, and it always brings me to tears for the beauty of such true familial love.

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    1. I hope to be an inspiration to my children and so far all four have turned out better than I could have ever hoped. To make sure that they know what I know, I am slowly writing my autobiography which is turning out to be fun! Oh, and Yes, I still cry sometimes when I think of my Dad.

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      1. I think you have been David, heck in some ways, you been an inspiration to me :) I am enjoying your autobiography and the parts of that that talk about your childhood show that your parents were inspirational as well.

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    2. Thanks you so much Sammy. It’s true that I keep him with me in many ways. The thought that my daughter will carry memories forward (and the thought that my dad is still watching) also helps keep me in line. It is beautiful.

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  8. Great to hear more about your dad Dan. A great tribute which reminded me – even though its not Father’s day here in NZ – to give my dad a call. I have been fortunate to have a father that is good with his hands and both my brother and I spent countless hours with dad in the shed learning and talking. We first built free flight and control line model airplanes, then a kit car together which the whole family raced (and still race to this day).

    Apart from how to solder, weld and bend balsa wood with ammonia, one of the greatest lessons dad has taught us is to do right by others, always, without expecting in return. I’m guessing some flavor of this earned your father that blank cheque trust as well.

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    1. Thanks Nick. Learning by their side is such a great experience. And, I’ve come to realize that it works both ways. My daughter spent another day in the shop with me yesterday, Doing right by others was a constant lesson. I can see it in the stuff you share. I’ve learned a lot from your posts and the things you curate from the larger world on information. Thanks for reading and commenting and for being out there.

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  9. Dan, what a moving post! You are keeping your father’s spirit alive as evidenced by this wonderful tribute to him and how often you think of him in your daily life. I can see that your dad was a hard-working and honest man – a great role model for you and your brother.

    Have a fabulous Father’s Day! A very happy 60th birthday to you this 2014. I hope you write a post for this special milestone :)

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    1. Thanks Elaine. He was special, and his influence is impossible to escape.

      I had a very good day including a bike ride and a beer with my daughter and then she joined us for dinner. It doesn’t get any better. 60 doesn’t come for several months, but I’m not worried about it.

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      1. Your dad’s influence has made you wealthy…not necessarily in $$, but in the person you are today. How do I know this? The essence of you comes through your posts! So true that 60 is just a number:)

        Enjoy the balance of the day with your family!

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  10. Oh Dan, what a loss for you and your family. With the passing of time, a story like ‘the golf balls rolling around the casket’ becomes a cherished memory that brings a smile without rekindling the pain. I’m glad you knew he loved you and was proud of you ;)

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  11. Really nice post, Dan. I think of my dad a lot, too. He’s been gone about four years now, but I never stop wishing I could pick up the phone or stop by and chat about whatever. He was a great sounding board, a patient listener, and I miss the hell out of him. Your dad sounds like a really interesting, talented man. A toast to him and all the dads …

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  12. Dad’s are just so enigmatic, Dan. Memories like tattoos on our hearts. Thanks for the wonderful stories of your own Dad. Sorry I am so late getting to this post. We are finally slowing down some of our settling in here in Costa Rica but still there are things to do. Hope you are feeling better.

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  13. This was a great tribute and held a lot of interesting facts about your special father. Sixty years old is quite young, sorry about that! I lost my Dad at 69 years, still wasn’t ‘ready’ to let him go! I am blessed with a Mom still alive and kicking. The part I liked about your story about your Dad was the trust someone gave him, giving him a blank check to fix their “woods”/golf clubs. I like that you think of him all the time, when you could use his help, and also, when you wish you could help him out. Great post!

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    1. Thanks. 69 isn’t very old either, especially when it takes a good long time to get to a point where kids and parents interact as adults. I was very surprised when those clubs arrived. My dad had that guy’s records written down, how long each shaft had to be, the kind of grips he liked and weight each club should be. It was pretty amazing.

      Thanks again for the comment.
      D

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not sure how but I ended up here tonight. When I re-read your post about losing your Dad, I didn’t see my “like” so I went looking to see if I still had not written a comment. Glad to see this was here, since this was a memorial worth reading again, Dan.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. May God bless him…and may your memories of your father forever live one amongst your children! The elderly are truly a blessing indeed:)

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  15. Dan, I’ve just read through all the comments on your beautiful and sensitive piece, and found it so very moving. I almost cried. I lost my mother three years ago (is it really so long ago?), and it was such a privilege to be with her during those last hours. She was a kind and gentle soul with a beauty and tranquillity that came from the inside. Even when she was ill – she had dementia – she stayed lovely. I remember her green eyes so clearly that last week we were together. I did not think my father would be able to cope without her, hoping and expecting he would join her and not have to go through all the pain. They had been inseparable for nearly sixty years. But he didn’t go, and developed the same disease. It was not nice to watch, and I still don’t understand why he stayed in this world so long. He died, physically alone at the nursing home, in his sleep, and I felt something in my chest jump and flutter. I wasn’t surprised when the call came. He had finally given in. He was ninety years old. Losing both parents so close together feels strange, and encourages me to take care of the relationships I have with my own children. A clique, but suddenly I become aware that life is too short, and slips by so quickly. It was good to share this – I hope you don’t mind.

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing Rachael. Losing your parents is hard under any circumstances. Sometimes I think my father’s passing was easier than if he had been left in a state where he couldn’t do all the things that he loved. We will never have those answers. Appreciating the time we have with our loved ones while we have them is the key. Then, at least we have memories.

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  16. (PLEASE FORGIVE MY VERY LONG COMMENT? YIKES)
    You had a dad who wasn’t too unlike my own dear dad. My dad also loved golfing. My sister became his best golf partner…I wouldn’t have been good at it. My dad lectured us about a lot of the things yours did…however, he learned to accept our strengths and weaknesses for what they were, while in his 50’s. When he was younger, he was hot-tempered and impatient…however, he demanded the very best of us..whether it was chores, school, or just being good people. He was barely 61, when the man I knew and relied upon to help me through life’s dramas and dilemmas, was replaced by a man unable to even communicate, or feed himself. He was trapped somewhere between life and death—I was forced to watch, along with my heartbroken mother, and my sister…the terrible devastation and long, long convalescence-turned-decline after a tragic accident struck him down in the road near their house. For 12 years he was severely brain-injured and mostly paralyzed…never to walk, golf, or even have a meaningful conversation with any of us again. I knew he never wanted to be in such a state of living but what can we do when we have no idea he would never be “okay” again after that drugged driver ran him down with her SUV, that night? It was terrible to watch. I so wished he could have died doing what he loved…fly fishing, or best of all, golfing. But, he died at home. My Mama was a nurse her entire adult life…when he came home, that’s where he remained…loved and cared for, except in hospitalizations (several)…the least she felt he deserved was to be able to die at home.
    I know that whether sudden or prolonged, death of a cherished parent kills something in us, as it happens. It takes our past away…and leaves us vulnerable as we move toward our own ‘end.’ Parents protected us from the scary stuff and evil things…no longer here, even if we are middle-aged adults, they take with them our very sense of security and assurance that we will be alright.

    He’s been gone 4 years. No words could ever describe what he meant to me, or how very much I miss him. I watch my mother (house-bound with severe arthritis, failed back syndrome, and nearly total blindness) practically count her minutes on earth, as she prays for her own death to come so that she can be with him again. Why must we grow old, my friend? Why must we work so hard to raise kids correctly, put away for our retirements, and be a good human beings, to our best abilities, if this undue punishment should someday be our own fate? To be innocents, on the very cusp of retirement, robbed of all that they’d built together and worked so hard to be able to enjoy together, only to have everything snatched away so unjustly? Be blessed that your loving father died enjoying his favorite past time…and that he was dabbling in doing the kinds of work in his retirement that he likely wished he’d been able to do ALL his working life. He got to enjoy some of it…and he was there for you, until the end. Imagine the children nowadays…24 million in USA, who live in a home without their father or have no idea who he even is? WE WERE SO FORTUNATE, weren’t we? Do not regret a thing. I am always being told to accept what is, and not ruminate on what could have been. It is so difficult…
    I just know that I am grateful and blessed to have had a Dad and Mom as good as they were…they are special gifts that keep on giving…long after they are gone. I will someday face this bitter sorrow for Mom’s passing. SO hard to watch her pine for him. SO hard to miss him, for myself.
    Someday, perhaps the earthly sadness will go away and we will be rejoined with those we cherished…and we won’t worry about the “why” of “what if” anymore. That is my fervent hope.
    Peace to you.

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    1. I am so sorry for your loss and prolonged sadness. I’ve often thought that my dad would have preferred to die suddenly over many other possibilities. There’s no good way to lose a parent or any loved one. We are blessed to have memories and we are blessed to be able to sort those memories out and find the nuggets worth cherishing and the ones that we can drift away from. Thinking about the people we have lost, keeps a piece of them alive (I think). Thinking about the people who are still with us, makes them feel better (I know). Thank you for sharing this comment.

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      1. Sharing with others the memories we cherish is just as close to keeping their spirit alive as I can imagine. There isn’t a day that I don’t reflect on the wonderful father I had and took so much wisdom from…not one day that I don’t miss and love him and appreciate him with all of my heart.
        I am sorry for your loss, as well. We are forever going to have that huge hole in our heart that no one can fill..be it 4 years since they died or 31 years. We just know that nothing is quite the same about life without them…and it has a residue that never completely fades away.

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        1. Fortunately, I no longer have the huge hole in my heart. He’s gone, I miss him but carry him with me everyday. It took a long time to realize that I don’t just have memories of him, I have him in me in so many ways that he lives on. It does help to talk about him, to write about him and to figure out all the ways in which he influenced my life.

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  17. You’ve shared some beautiful memories of your father. He sounds like a wonderful man with great strength or character and a wonderful work ethic.

    Lovely post.

    Thanks for taking the time to share something so personal.

    ML

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      1. I used to practically beg the owners of blogs to correct my typoes. It drove my OCD nuts.

        I’m dealing better with them now.. lol

        Sometimes I can even pretend I made no mistake at all and carry on like the recipient knew exactly what I meant and wont think I’m illiterate at all.. lol

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  18. A beautiful page out of your heart album, Dan. Your love and affection for him run over your words. A handsome man he was, and yes, I realize how not old 40 is. And notice how everyone in their 50s and 60s feel the same. Well, here you are writing with his handprints in your life. =)
    I suspect he woulda been proud of you.

    HW

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  19. Hi Dan,

    It’s posts like this that make me realize how much I miss all the wonderful people in the WordPress Community. I just have to get back writing and reading here again on a regular basis.

    A post like this is something we can all connect with and for the moment, feel exactly what you felt while writing it.

    My dad died when I was 14. That’s an empty spot in my life which I was never able to fill.

    This is a beautiful tribute to your dad. I can tell how much he meant to you and to all who knew him, as well.

    I’m sure he was smiling down over your shoulder as you penned these endearing words. :)

    Congrats on this being Freshly Pressed too! Well deserved honor for an amazing wordsmith.

    ~Cathy~

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    1. I am so sorry to hear that you lost your dad while you were so young Cathy. their absence does leave a hole that remains unfilled. I hope that in keeping and sharing my memories of him I can keep his spirit alive. Thanks for your kind words. I appreciate them and the others shared by the members of the WP community. It truly is a special place.

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