For nearly as long as I can remember, my dad would comment on how cool it would be to have a REAL bow tie. He once said that he thought being able to tie a bow tie was a skill that classy men had and seemed to be a dying art.
My dad didn’t own a bow tie when I was a kid. As my dad’s 50th birthday approached (January 28, 2011) I was in full-scale wedding planning mode and decided that I wanted to give my dad that opportunity to be the man in the tuxedo, tying a real, bow tie.
I searched a few stores and ended up in the men’s department at Macy’s. They had a wide selection of bow ties, including the classic, black satin bow tie. The cashier asked me while ringing up the bow tie, “does he know how to tie this?” He didn’t know who it was for, what it meant or any of the back story but I answered, “He will.”
Dad’s surprise party 50th birthday party had to be changed from a surprise party in Ohio to a planned party at my parent’s home in Pennsylvania because my dad’s cancer treatments were taking a toll on him, making travel tough. For his birthday, I gave my dad his bow tie and a link to a how to video on YouTube.
A week or so after his birthday, I received an email from my dad with several in-progress photos of him tying the bow tie. Read the rest of this entry
I was wondering about something random on my drive home from work the other day and I thought, “I should call dad. He would know.” It took me a minute or two before I remembered that I can’t call my dad.
It’s been almost a year and a half since my dad lost his battle with cancer. Sometimes that seems like a long time but the other day, it felt like I could just pick up the phone and call him like nothing ever happened.
I keep the people that I call most often on my favorites menu on my phone and the number listed after Brad’s was my dad’s. Three months after dad died, I removed him from the favorites menu but couldn’t bring myself to delete his cell phone number. It took several more months before I could delete his number completely, even doing that brought me to tears.
Time may bring healing, but it’s a slow process. As more time passes, it’s easier to tell stories about my dad without feeling angry or tearing up.
Today would have been my father’s 52nd birthday.
No matter how long he’s gone, or where my life takes me, I will always be his daughter.
The longer I’m an adult, the more and more I realize how much of an influence parents have on our lives. A conversation with my husband last week about how we’ve gotten to where we are in life and I can’t help but attribute much of who I am to my parents. Sometimes I didn’t understand them or even like them (I was once a teenager) but as an adult I see how their parenting and boundaries shaped me. I learned responsibility and respect at a young age and many other values from my mom and dad.
I said something the other day that echoed back in my head in my father’s voice. I used the phrase, “friends, family and strangers off the street.”
My dad used to say it about every event our church had, he’d tell everyone to invite “friends, family and strangers off the street.” I have no idea where the saying came from, or if he made it up. No matter where is actually came from, the message was clear: Everyone is welcome. Everyone is invited. No matter who they are. Read the rest of this entry
Father’s Day is this weekend and it’s tough. Every holiday is tough when you lose a parent, but especially the ones meant just for them.
Last year, I thought Father’s Day was rough, but my dad was still here. Dad had been admitted to the hospital on the second day of our honeymoon and we had no idea until the last night of our cruise when we were back in range of U.S. cell towers. He was still in the hospital on Father’s Day, but I got to call him and talk with him. This year I can’t.
A couple of weeks ago, I ventured into the card aisle on a mission for birthday and sympathy cards during lunch. I like to think that I’m pretty good at shopping for sympathy cards, I know what words brought the tiniest bit of comfort to me and I know that glitter is never appropriate, it’s like fake cheer. While walking through the aisles of cards, I ended up in the Father’s Day section. I thought for about two seconds that I could pick up a card for my father-in-law while I was there… I couldn’t even pick up a card without feeling like I was going to burst into tears.
Although nice, none of the commemorative ornaments, Relay for Life luminaries or photographs can take away the ache associated with missing your father. No one tells you Read the rest of this entry
When I was little, my dad used to want to go get ice cream after dentist appointments. It was as much of a treat as the treasure box at our dentist’s office was. This came from when he was a kid and got ice cream after going to the dentist.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve averaged about one medical appointment a week. Between getting set up with my pump and establishing new medical care since moving north, I see the inside of a lot of different medical facilities. I’ve also verified my medications and allergies more times than I can count!
My office is awesome in that it operates on a flexible work schedule year-round (flex schedules are typically used to extend summer weekends at some places) so I don’t have to take personal, sick or vacation time to go to all of these appointments. Read the rest of this entry
I wrote this back in 2007 about my dad’s outlook on life, cancer and other people:
…We found out that my father will probably never be cancer-free. 3-6 months out of the year he will probably be on chemotherapy. But they have not given him a time frame and his cancer tracers in his blood have been reduced by nearly 60 percent. I went to chemotherapy with my dad yesterday and spent some time with him. My father talks with the nurses and other people at chemo, they joke and get to know one another and when one of the nurses is having a bad day they talk to him and it seems to make a difference that he cares about them as real people. Everyone is surprised that he is still working close to full time while undergoing cancer treatment. When I mentioned it to him once he told me that if he didn’t have to go to work, he probably wouldn’t get out of bed some days. When he hurts he figures that he’s either going to hurt at work or hurt at home and at least at work he has a distraction. My dad hasn’t been given a time frame but as he says, “we’re all terminal.” He’s decided not to waste any days, even though the doctors tell him he could have many years ahead of him. There are two lessons in this that I have learned: sometimes we are stuck in proximity with people, so why not care about them? And don’t waste your days, you never know how many you have.
I had forgotten about that until it resurfaced recently… in a very timely manner. Around the holidays we’re often around a lot of people, whether in crowded shopping areas or seeing those family members that you see on special occasions or running into old acquaintances when everyone goes “home” for the holidays. You’re around people whether you want to be or not, you might as well care about them.
When I wrote that bit above, we didn’t know how many days my dad had. Four years later, his days ran out.. and he never wasted the time he had. This holiday season when you’re gathering with friends and family, don’t forget why you’re gathering. Go to be there and actually be with the people there.
I’m not trying to tell you that you may die tomorrow or anything like that. What I’m trying to say is, don’t waste your time.
In the past, I’ve been proud of my ability to Christmas shop for people throughout the year and am usually finished with my major shopping by the 1st of December. This year is very different.
I held off on buying Christmas presents for most of the year because it was our first Christmas as a married couple and productive working citizens instead of “poor college students.” I thought it’d be easier because I’d have Brad to help me out and I’d be able to expand the Christmas shopping budget. Although those things are true, Christmas shopping is much more difficult this year.
I put it off too much. Because of delaying the start of shopping, I feel much more rushed this year because I didn’t do any shopping in the rest of the year. We still have several people on our list to find gifts for.
There’s not enough time in a day. Neither of us consistently leave work at 5:00, we stay until the job is done. Then Brad has an unpredictable commute home so we never know when we can start shopping on weekday evenings. And our weekends during this season tend to fill up quickly.
It’s weird. Shopping this year is weird for many reasons. I don’t go shopping without Brad most of the time because I don’t always see things and think of which of his family members would like it. We were shopping last week and he saw something that I would have never looked at twice and said, “Don’t you think my great-grandma would like this?’ She definitely would like it, but I wouldn’t have thought about her when I saw it. I may be a part of the family, but I’m still learning about little likes and dislikes. It’s also weird (and a little tough) because every single time I go shopping, I see at least one thing that would have made a great present for my dad. For Christmases past, he had been a tough person to shop for. It’s funny how you see things that would be perfect for someone when you no longer buy them presents (for whatever reason).
Online shopping isn’t my thing. You may have started thinking while reading my
excuses list above: she should just shop online. Online shopping is fantastic! If you know what you want to give someone. But if you don’t have a clue, like me, seeing things sometimes makes it easier to pick something out. That and I tend to think too much.
Other notes about gifts
If you are on our Christmas shopping list, rest assured that, even if it’s purchased close to the wire, it was pick out with you in mind. Also, if I wrap a present for you, I selected wrapping paper and a gift tag that I think you might like. Lots of care and thought goes into gift giving.
Is Christmas shopping easy for you?
The rough day started at 1:15 a.m. when I woke up thinking I was dying and Brad woke up thinking that the A/C had broken. Both of our issues were caused by my 49 mg/dL blood glucose (non diabetics, that’s low). Having never experienced low blood sugar in the middle of the night it really freaked me out. Especially since I had recently read about a girl passing away in her sleep from low blood sugar.
That’s not really the way I like to start my day and it put me on track for a long, tired day. After work I had to rush through the grocery store and get home before the office closed to pick up my box from the medical supply company because I was completely out of test strips (I cut it too close this time).
When I was leaving the grocery store, I had a green light and needed to turn right. I noticed an elderly woman beginning to cross the street from the other direction and judged that the distance was safe enough not to startle her and turned. At which point she felt compelled to bellow, at the top of her lungs, “JERK!” at me. Because when you cross the road, you need all 4 lanes to yourself. (I am not a crazy driver, my turn was perfectly safe.)
If she knew what my day had been like maybe she wouldn’t have yelled at me. If I knew what was going on in her life, maybe I would have let my green light pass and given her the whole street.
I had just read this post on Kyle Lacy’s blog on that same rough day and watched the Chick Fil A video about every life having a story.
It kind of brings a sense of reality to everyday life. If we knew each others’ stories, would we act differently?
After watching that video, I thought of the signs that could have easily been over my head in something like that. Especially the weekend that I was released from the hospital and lost my dad. There was so much in my own life that occupied my thoughts that it surely had to be visible to others.
Sometimes not knowing someone’s story and then being a genuine, kind humane being is enough.
On that same day, I got home to this email:
Rachel, you are a GENIUS! I had no idea this was even an option until you mentioned it and just didn’t think it was possible! Love you!
It was the nicest thank you email for the smallest recommendation in response to a question about Facebook.
I admire the strength that it took for my family members to share memories at my father’s funeral this weekend.
I was unable to hold myself together enough to speak. Had I spoken, I would have talked about ties.
I’ve been thinking a lot about ties lately (I do mean neck ties). During my dad’s time as both a pastor and an engineer, he wore a lot of ties. I remember as a little girl I used to love looking through my dad’s ties. For Father’s Day one year, my sister and I took this fabric that was green and white checked with big lady bugs on it and sewed it onto an old tie that my dad had. He wore it to church that Father’s Day Sunday, and almost every Father’s Day after. He even wore it on Father’s Days after we grew up and moved out. I wish that one of those years we had taken a picture of dad in his Father’s Day tie.
One Sunday, when I was in middle school, dad was preaching and had gotten extremely animated about one of his main points. His tie had turned backwards so that the tail and tag were facing out. Our family discretely motioned for him to fix his tie. Those motions must not have been clear enough, because he smoothed his tie instead of flipping it back over. By the end of his sermon, his backward-facing tie was laying very nice and straight.
While I was growing up, dad had expressed several times how cool he thought it would be to own a real bow tie and tie it himself. For his 50th birthday this year, I wanted to get him something special. So I bought him a very classy black bow tie and looked up the instructions on how to tie one for him on YouTube. A week or so after his birthday, I received an email from my dad with several in-progress photos of him tying the bow tie. One of my cousins shared on Facebook recently that he remembered my dad as a man who when he wanted to do something, he learned how. That was how dad was with the bow tie (and many other things in his life).
Dad went to a great deal of trouble to tie that bow tie and wear it when he walked me down the aisle and when he danced with me at my wedding.
It’s the little stuff that sticks with you, the stuff that can’t be captured in an obituary.