A Tribute to My First Valentine, My Heart, My Coach, My Biggest Fan, My Cribbage Partner, My Compass, My Silly Goofball, My Kindred Soul, My Daddy

I so do…always and forever, daddy. Love never dies and the bond is unbroken. Each day I’m a little closer to seeing your dear face again!

My dad was an athlete. In his younger days, he played as many sports as he could, but he excelled at football. He had a great love affair with it. One that lasted a lifetime. He was good….very good at playing football. He was a tackle on both offense and defense. The captain of the team in college. He was committed to it with all his being. Yet when it came to the end of college, even after getting an offer from the then Chicago Cardinals to go train/play ball, he chose service to his country and went into the Navy.

That was my dad. Decades and decades later, he was inducted into the hall of fame for his college. We all went to the ceremony. Each inductee had a chance to do a little speech. The men who gave their speeches before him were all different ages, but what their speeches had in common was they all spoke of their moments of glory in football. It seemed the time and place to do that, after all they were being inducted into their college’s hall of fame. When my dad got up to speak, you could tell he was uncomfortable with it all. He didn’t want to rehash his days of glory on the field. For him, it wasn’t about the glory, but purely about his love and commitment to the game.

My dad, brother Brian and I circa 1965

That’s how my dad lived his life. He was committed and all in. He didn’t do it for the glory or the recognition. He did it because he loved being a husband. He loved being a dad. He loved his family. He excelled at loving us. He made it his life’s mission to love us well. Simply because that was who he loved and what his job was. We felt it every day of our lives. That umbrella of love and care. He was always in our corners. If he thought we were making the wrong move or decisions, he had no problem telling us so. Yet even when we did and we suffered consequences for it, he stood with us and by us. His love was a given in our lives.

He always had time for us. He was good at his job as an outside salesmen and worked hard. The job allowed him to flex his time. He was able to pick us up from school. He took us to events. He coached each of us. For my brothers it was baseball, for me it was basketball. He’d work with us to be better in our sports. We have endless memories of playing in our yard with him. Shooting hoops in our driveway. Playing catch or pickle. He knew the value of time with his kids, his wife and he used it well.

Part of the coordinating outfit that my dad and I shopped for together many years ago.

I will always cherish the countless times he spent with me. He took me shopping for clothes. I have a very special memory of going to Sears with him. He was trying to impress on his girl, who’s primary wardrobe at the time was jeans and wallabies, the value of coordinating outfits. I will never forget that time. Shopping with my dad, the afternoon spent looking for the perfect clothes. We settled on the vest and skirt pictured in the photo plus another gray-beige skirt, brown wool pants, and a blue blouse. One of my favorite outfits ever was bought. Truth be told, I believe it had 6 different ways I could wear it with all the pieces….it was coordinating after all. I wore it through high school and college. I went on dates in it. I wore it on my first teaching job. I still have it and if I could fit in it, it’s classic enough to wear even today. My dad was good at giving us the things that would serve us through time…even down to an outfit to wear, but especially in the intangibles.

This is my 23rd birthday. Dad and I, in my first apartment

He gave us lessons each day in what mattered. He modeled it to us, not by his words, but by his actions. We could always look to him to direct the way and he faithfully did. He taught us the value of hard work. He impressed on us the need to find a good career path. He taught us the value of being good people. He wanted us to live lives of integrity, giving, and most of all he wanted us to be happy. He was dedicated to making us happy all our lives. He was fiercely focused on that. When we were happy, he was. When we achieved and succeeded, it was his greatest joy. He had a father’s heart for us. He gladly sacrificed his own dreams for ours. That was who he was.

I could go on and on about all the ways he loved us and impacted us as our dad. My brothers and I loved and adored him right back. We loved being with him. He had this way of making you feel so special and loved when he would see you…each and every time. He’d always cry when we had to say goodbye if we lived at a distance. He had difficulty communicating with words his emotions, but we felt every day this deep and true love he had for us. I loved and adored him from the time I was a little girl. He was the first man I ever loved. He was my measuring stick of what a real man was. I’m so grateful for that, too. He will always be my first Valentine. Because he was, he helped me find my Bob, my true love. A man, like my dad in so many ways, in the way he loves, gives, and cares. My dad helped my brothers become who they are today. Both are incredible men. They are full of all the best of my daddy in the way they love, give, care and conduct themselves.

I love this photo of me, my dad and our dog Gigi. The little note, he put on my pillow. He spent the night dog sitting and couldn’t resist leaving a silly note.

I have so many sweet times and memories tucked in my heart of dad and I. Dad and daughter moments of hanging out, playing cribbage, his visits to my college, walking me down the aisle, Valentine’s flowers, little goofy notes he’d leave or sentimental gifts like giving me my first diamond (he wanted to be the first man to give me one,) a trip to the fair, all our holidays together, the list goes on and on. He gave me so many gifts in life. One of my favorites was how he taught us to be silly and laugh. He just loved to be goofy. He was one of the most buoyant people I have ever known. He’d do silly faces or goofy voices when I called him. That ability to laugh was a strength of his that he used in good times and bad. He passed it on for us to have to live life, too.

This is my mom and dad, a few Easters back

My dad went to heaven last Monday. I’m still trying to figure out how I will live without him. I will miss him in a zillion ways. No one can come close to loving you like a good dad loves you. That umbrella of love, fierce love, and care will be missed by my brothers and I the rest of our lives. We will miss him in big ways and little ways. At all the milestones of our future lives, we will wish he was there. Holidays, family times, birthdays…Father’s Day…won’t be the same. We will grieve and miss him so very much. He was the heart of our family. He was the strength. He was the silly. He was our coach, He was our greatest cheerleader. He was the compass.

All his life, he gave us lessons on how to live that are now a part of who we are. He was always there before to reinforce them, but now it’s up to us to stir them up and use them. He truly did equip us for all we needed to live good lives except one thing and that is how to live without him. I know he had no idea the hole he would make when he left us. His whole focus even til his last days was being what we needed. His mind was on us and the things he worried about and dreamt for us like only a dad could do. It wasn’t easy for him to let go of that. He fought hard for 2 years to stay here with us. Even in that fight, he taught us how to live and continue.

I’m thinking about doing a series of writings about my dad. His life and all he taught me. The journey we had the last two years. The sacred and precious time, I had with him and all it gave me. Here, I will say, he taught me in that journey how much each day matters. How the ending of our life matters just as much as the beginning . He taught me how to walk through hard things with dignity and strength. How to have joy and laughter. He gave each and every day all he had.

Thank you for bearing with me in this very long blog post. My dad was so proud of me blogging and pursuing this dream. He was so beyond cute in trying to help me come up with content. I shared in December, his prompting me to post about a wreath that I made them. He was insistent I should blog about it. He was always my greatest supporter and cheerleader. Even now as I write, I can feel his joy and pride .

All Dad’s life he loved to play games. Any kind….board games, cards, crosswords. He was in a bridge group in his senior community for many years. The last few years, I supplied him with endless Wordsearch books. He did them every day. This one was one he finished and gave to me. I asked for his autograph. When he gave it back to me it made me laugh. I’ve called him Puma for many years…it’s a nickname with a long history …lol…he added a couple more. I was flipping through it and saw this one had inspirational phrases. The one above sure fit the way my dad lived, “To laugh often and love much….to find the best in others….to leave this world a bit better.”

I share this tribute about my dad to express some of what is on my heart about him. I also share it because it really captures a man, who knew what mattered most and lived it. He lead a simple life, one dedicated to loving his family and people well. He was a bright, talented man. He did very well in his field. He could have pursued so much more, but for him being a dad and husband was what mattered most. He leaves a legacy of that to us and in us and his grandkids. I hope we can live it half as well as he did. My blog is about doing what matters most, putting that at the top of your list. I hope that sharing this will encourage my readers to do just that. Life is short no matter how long it is. Live your priorities. Love all out. Be all in. Your life and the way you live it matters. My dad’s life and priorities forever will impact us and the lives we live. I carry all he gave me, taught me and his love in my heart as I do my best to honor him in how I live. Love life, love those around you, don’t take a moment for granted…live your list.

All his life he loved to make us laugh and to be silly …here he is at a favorite beach we use to go to…circa 1970s

He kept the silly up all his days …he was the goofiest …I’m sure heaven has more laughter and silly now…and definitely more football playing!