Both of my kids were awful sleepers as babies – like an hour here, 15 minutes there – then they were ON until the next 10-minute nap. I learned that playing music in their room at night was KEY to keeping them asleep. So – every night I would put my phone on silent, put it under my son’s crib, and play whatever “baby night-night” playlist I could find. One morning when my son was a year and a half old, I went into his room around 6 am, as I did each morning, and saw that I had over 40 missed calls. My brother, my sister, and my stepmom had called over and over and over again – all night. My stomach was in my throat, I was sweating and already in a total panic. I knew that from this day forward my life would be forever changed.
A few months prior, my Dad took his annual motorcycle trip from his house in Northern California to our house near Dallas, TX. I was always touched that he made such an effort to include our little family in his rounds as we were much farther south than anyone else he’d visit. I was especially looking forward to this visit because my son was just over a year old and past the “new baby” stage and was walking, interacting, laughing (NOT sleeping….) and I was excited to see my Dad and my son hang out. My Dad was NOT a ‘baby-little kid-young kid’ kind of Dad. His very dry sense of humor was lost on anyone under the age of, say, 25-ish. While he’d be cracking up at some joke he’d made undoubtedly geopolitical in nature or so sly-to-the-inside for you baseball fans – us kids would be staring at him uncomfortably not knowing if he was laughing WITH or AT us – or neither. As an adult, I thought him to be one of the most clever, sarcastic, funny without being overtly so, people I knew – and he cracked. Me. Up.
My Dad retired when he was 46. Yup. He’d become a scratch golfer, an A tennis player, had ridden his bike from Oregon to Virginia – twice (like, peddled…no motor but himself), hiked the highest mountain peaks, built an igloo to camp in (who does that???), and was a beautiful snow skier – any mountain, any weather, any time.
That trip to TX – when he and my son hung out? That would be the last time I would ever see my Dad. I was always melancholy watching him gear up to head out to his next destination – but that last trip as I watched him ride out of the driveway and down our tree-lined street, I sat down right where I was and cried. I didn’t know why, something felt different. The world seemed to stop and allow me a moment to just be inside myself and appreciate the entirety of the 43 years I’d shared with him.
You see – the 40 missed calls – they were to tell me that in an instant – quite literally less than 1 second, my Dad was gone. My stepmom had poked her head in his den and asked if he wanted dessert. He OF COURSE said yes – she came back a moment later and he was gone. Just like that. This larger than life, anchor to safety, adventurous, laugh that would shake a room, my Dad – so softly, quietly, personally – was gone.
This Father’s Day – as you receive invitations to the BBQ’s, brunches, Zoom calls – say yes. Call, don’t text. Hug, laugh, listen. Be present. Take the time. Get to know him. Trust me on this one – you’ll be glad you did.
Enjoyed this article? Read another Momma Blog on First Time Fears – Leaving Dad Alone with Baby.
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