‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Things My Father Taught Me

"I talk and talk and talk, and I haven't taught people in 50 years what my father taught by example in one week." -- Mario Cuomo

I miss him, my Dad. He died six years ago this week. It was Father's Day, actually, and I had to mix my 'Happy Father's Day' Greeting with my 'goodbye' to him on the phone. He couldn't respond to me verbally, but I knew he was hearing every word, and I could easily fill in what he might say back anyway. My Dad was a talker, and he was giving advice till the last minute, even if I couldn't physically hear the words.

People tell you it gets easier as the years go by, dealing with the death of someone you love. And I guess in some way they might be right. But the missing them doesn't change much. I have felt cheated of these years without my Dad, mostly because I know he could have still been here if he had taken better care of himself. Sometimes I yell at him out loud still, when I'm going through a particularly hard time and he's not here to add his two cents. I know he doesn't mind.

My Dad was quite the character. When your Dad is as magnetic and well-loved as mine was, you have to share him with the world most of your life. But I liked that. I felt so proud to be his daughter. When I was young, if some adult I didn't know recognized me as his daughter, I felt like I could burst open from the pride of it. " You must be Bobby Cahill's Daughter"..I heard more often than not. I actually used to wonder what great selfless thing I must have done in another life to win the reward of being his daughter in this one.

But my Dad and I did not always get along. I don't want to paint a false rosy picture. There was hard times and times of not speaking to one another and, if I'm honest, even knock-down drag-out fights. We were alot a like. Others would back down from him when he raged. Me? I gave it right back to him. He didn't like that. I remember once in 7th grade my mom brought me up to his room for talking back. ( He was bed bound for awhile that year after open heart surgery.) My Dad got up out of his bed and asked me to apologize to my mom. I said no, and he slapped me. Most 13 year olds would cry in shame. Me? I slapped him back and ran. I ran, because I was smart enough to know my Dad was stronger than me even if he did have a torso-long new scar running down his middle. I ran and hid in my cousin's treehouse until I felt the storm had blown over.

In my childhood, I do remember wishing he were more nurturing at times. He wasn't one to hug or say " I love you' until I was an adult. But he was such an amazing Dad in so many other ways, I sometimes still can't believe I was lucky enough to have him. He was always bringing us on some sort of adventure or another. Like the times he would take us out of school for Opening Day for the Red Sox or for the premiere of a really great movie. Sometimes he would take me to work with him. I remember spending time at the State House with him, and feeling so very proud to be by his side. And catching lunch with his co-workers at a little pub nearby. I remember Mike Dukakis had a desk next to his and he cleared off a space for me to sit and write. I remember years later visiting my dad at the Salem Jail  (he was Sheriff) and getting to bring food trays to the prisoners. In some ways, I guess it was my first experience with volunteer work!

My father taught me so many valuable lessons that I honestly think I'd be handicapped without them. He was determined to prepare us for life. He never coddled, never comforted, but in his own way, he prepared me for this life better than any other father could have. He used to always remind me when I was whiny about some unfairness or other  'Of course it's unfair! LIFE is unfair.' Or sometime he'd say ' Life is hard, dahlin' - get used to it.' Might seem harsh to think of someone saying that to a ten year old, but his words have stood me in good stead for 46 years. I wouldn't trade them for anything.

I often wonder what my Dad would think of my life right now. I know he'd have alot to say about it. He always did. When I first brought Nastia home, He called me no less than five times a day 'What is she doing now? Write it down!' or 'What is she discovering today? Write it down!' My Dad was a writer, so he always wanted me writing everything down to save for later stories. I wish I had listened.

Dad, if you can hear me, I want you to know I miss you as much today as I did that Father's Day six years ago. I think about you every day and easily ask myself a dozen times a day 'What would Dad say about this?' I would give a million dollars to hear your voice again, and listen to your laugh. I can't wait to see you again, and dream of the day I can listen to all your stories again. Keep close, Dad. I need you these days. As you told me, life is hard, and lately its been harder than I'd wish for. Give me the strength to meet it the way you did -- head-on and with the courage of a soldier at arms. I love you, Dad. And I know how lucky I am:)

Love, your little girl.

1 comment:

  1. I so wish I had met him, he sounds like my dad, just, your dad likes to write, my dad, not so much, but, I LOVE to write.... Send him a prayer saying I would like to meet him some day, because I don't know his phone number in heaven. Or if he would take calls from a stranger.


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