The past few weeks have been hard. Harder than I imagined. From the moment of my sister’s call—”Daddy’s gone“—I feel like I’ve been swimming through a dense fog, searching for islands of peace in an ocean of grief and uncertainty. This is not how my dad would want me to feel. He would be lovingly encouraging me to find my way back to happiness. So, Dad, this is for you…and for me.
Lucky In The Dad Lottery
I told my father that in the lottery of life, I don’t know how I got so lucky to win him as my dad. He was a unique combination of strength and gentleness, compassionate toward all living beings, always ready to lend a hand, and with a deep, unwavering love for family and friends.
All of that would have been enough. But he was also fun to be around. His zest for life, his hilarious storytelling wit, his charming Southern manners, and his genuine interest in everyone he encountered made everyone fall in love with him.
I’m not gonna lie. For the past couple of years, my dad was also a major source of stress in my life. His sunny, positive “can-do” outlook masked an underlying stubbornness that made him difficult to reason with. For example, the time he climbed up on the roof—at age 88—to trim a few trees with a chainsaw. He assured me there was no reason to worry, but did acknowledge, “Those acorns are like rollerskates!” Or his refusal to wear a hearing aid, forcing the rest of us to shout. Or his insistence that he didn’t need to use a cane or walker for support, even after several frightening falls. “Everyone falls, honey!” he told me, while I patched him up with giant bandaids after yet another disaster.
He was the most loveably stubborn person you can imagine. I miss him terribly.
“Enjoy Every Moment”
Born during the Great Depression, my dad spent the first few years of his life in Apalachicola. This small fishing town in the panhandle of Florida was imprinted on his soul, and it’s where he felt most at home. He and my mom retired here in their 50s to build their home on the bay across from Apalachicola, and they lived here happily for 36 years. (It’s here, in their home, that Eric and I now find ourselves riding out the pandemic. But that’s a tale for another blog post.)
My folks met in high school in Miami, had their first date on Valentine’s Day in 1948, and were married the following year. They loved each other fiercely for 71 years and were uniquely well suited to sharing life together. “Enjoy every moment,” they told my sister and me, “life goes by quickly.” I feel the painful truth of that, especially now.
Whatever they wanted to do, they figured out a way to do it. They wanted a boat, so my dad built our first boat.
They wanted to see the country, so they strapped a footlocker loaded with camping gear to the top of our Volkswagon Bug and drove across the country, stopping at national parks all along the way and loading and unloading an enormous canvas tent, sleeping bags, and a Coleman stove and lantern every night for five weeks. For our next cross-country journey, my dad built a camping trailer to haul our gear.
When my sister and I left home for college, our folks bought an Airstream and then a fifth-wheel, continuing their travels well into their 80s. For many years, Eric and I met up with them somewhere between Florida and Oregon for adventures on the road.
My dad was successful in his work life—he started his career loading steel onto a flatbed truck, and worked his way up to vice-president of the company. One of his proudest work accomplishments was his company’s role at the Kennedy Space Center, where they built various structures, including the rocket launch pad. But work was never the most important thing in his life. We were.
What my dad enjoyed most was being with family and the simple pleasures in life—fishing, boating, camping, and working on projects at home. Among many other life skills, he taught my sister and me how to drive a boat, how to waterski and snorkel, and how to fish. And he always baited our hooks.
Even these past several years, despite the challenges of growing older—including caring for my mother, who has dementia—my dad was a happy person. “I wake up every morning looking forward to what the day will bring,” he told me a couple of years ago. I knew his world had shrunk to the circumference of household tasks, doctors’ appointments, and his role as my mother’s personal servant (“Where’s my tea, I want a treat, get me a kleenex, I’m hungry…”). He would laugh, roll his eyes, and get her whatever she wanted while asking, “Is there anything else I can do for you, Mrs. Queen?” My mother would grin wickedly and shoot him a bird.
There were many times that I thought, “How can he be happy? What in the world does he have to look forward to?” But on a deeper level, I understood. One of my dad’s great gifts to me has been the knowledge that happiness comes from focusing on the small pleasures in life and the uplifting practice of expressing gratitude out loud, and often. He was delighted to see daybreak over the bay each morning, and he never failed to celebrate the beautiful sunsets from the back porch. And he loved having family and friends around. It was enough.
I did not get to see my dad before he died. Although he did not have the coronavirus, we were not allowed to visit him, either in the assisted living facility or in the hospital. My mother continues to be quarantined in the assisted living facility, with little understanding that my father is gone.
It was painful not being able to see my dad, and painful not being able to gather with loved ones to celebrate his life and to mourn his passing. I set up an altar for my dad the night he died, surrounding him with the people he loved and who loved him. It’s a big altar, spanning the length of the buffet in the dining room. Just in the past few days, I’m noticing that some of my sadness is lifting. I’m able now to stop by and chat with my dad, looking at the photos and smiling as I recall the good times.
I find comfort in the knowledge that my dad and mom had long lives together, and that most of those years were truly wonderful. And I find solace in knowing that I never held back from telling my dad that I loved him, just as he never held back in expressing his love for us. Thanks, Dad, for your fine example of a life well-lived. You were the best. ♥️
Poignant beautiful tribute Laurel. He would be so pleased to be remembered so very lovingly. I had to find the box of Kleenex before I could finish but they were tears of gratefulness for good fathers and their deep influence on our lives and perhaps a bit of sadness that not everyone gets to enjoy such fine ones. Thanks for sharing.
Big Hugs to you Laurel, Eric and your family. Just heartbreaking but it sounds like your Dad was simply amazing and you are one lucky woman. I like what he said about simple pleasures. That’s the second time I have heard that and for me that’s what I am trying to focus on because the rest of what’s going on is too much. Here’s another hug and hoping the memories will make you smile when you are ready.
Oh Laurel, I am so so so very sorry. Such a beautiful tribute, hard to write I can only imagine, and yet healing to write as well. I loved seeing the photos of your dad as a young man (you look so much like him!) and the photos of he and your mom together. In all the years I have been reading your blog, I have enjoyed your stories of your parents, even the hard stories the last few years have lent texture and meaning to the life that you live with Eric. So many women I know who are successful in life have had truly great dads, and you are one of them. Big hugs to you from both of us, and wishing you strength for the journey ahead.
Such nice memories. Loosing parents makes us reflect on our own lives even more. It makes us appreciate or rethink the paths we choose. You are fortunate to have had such fun and loving parents.
What a wonderful trubute to your father! He was a very interesting man and lived a full life. I loved the photos and that VW trailer! He will be missed but you have many wonderful memories to make you smile when you think of him. All the best to you!
Though I never had the pleasure of meeting your dad, I feel I have through the legacy he left in you. People like to say that truly good folks pass far too young, but your dad was a testament to the opposite, and gives me great faith that goodness can endure. What an extraordinarily happy outlook he had for such a wonderfully long and full life! What a blessing in this world that such people get to leave that sort of imprint upon it and us. But no matter how much time we get with the ones we love, it’s never enough.
I know the past few years have been a terrible struggle for you, missing him, caring for him long distance, loving him but being frustrated and annoyed at the same time and feeling bad about that — all those complicated emotions we have for parents and life itself. There is no perfect way to love or to grieve, is there? Thank you for sharing your love and your grief, my friend. It surely helps us all to better recognize the world around us, and there could be no better tribute to your sweet daddy. <3
Sweetheart, I’m so sorry. I know from experience that there’s not much anyone can say to make you feel better. It does get better though, and it takes as long as it takes. You can’t get this part wrong. You pay beautiful tribute to a wonderful man. You’ve done him proud and always will. ❤️
Beautiful post and tribute to your dad…our sincere condolences to you and your entire family. What a wonderful treat to have your father celebrate life and share so much wisdom for 91 years. It does sound like your dad “got life” and his wisdom is being embraced my many. Memories initially skirt sadness of loss, but over time they will only bring love, joy and big smiles. So…may those memories never fade. Take care!
Beautiful tribute Laurel. Peace and all our best to you.
What a wonderful world he lived in! You all were blessed!
What a lovely memorial tribute you posted. Grief takes time and never be ashamed of the tears nor sharing with others. Bask in the memories he built for you to enjoy and for every sunset thank him for the life you shared….grief just takes time, you will get there.
I am watching two baby fawns just inside the woods, sun on one, the other not 3 feet away behind a fern. So happy they shared their morning with us, a peaceful way to begin the day. As I enjoyed my first hot chocolate these little guys were chasing each other around the little pond. Morning is magical here….Covid just has taken on a new joy….nature has opened the door in our yard…life is good…
Ah Laurel, this writing is so filled with heart and a lifetime of love. What a fine gift to have that deep connection. It does me so much good just to read this. All the best to you, and to Eric. I’m glad that you can be there occupying the space that he called home.
Laurel this is a beautiful story and I so enjoyed the pictures. I often think of my own parents and their passing. I didn’t make it to see my Dad before he passed, he was only 58 way too early. Mom I had been with all the day before but we had her for much longer, she was 95+. I often wonder what it would have been like to have had them longer but together. I never met your Dad but you have done a wonderful job of making me understand what a great husband and
father he was. Time will help you heal but I don’t think you ever completely get over losing a loved one. I am grateful that right now you and Eric are able to be in the home he loved.
Love you both, Penny
I am so sorry to read about your Dad’s passing. What a beautiful tribute your post is, and I don’t have to tell you how much it reminds me of my own father. I think we have brothers from another mother as our fathers. Everything you describe, I know it well. So I feel your grief, your sadness, your loss. Isn’t is funny how we can galivant around the country, the world, knowing they are there. And then one day… My wish is that your memories outweigh your sadness. Thinking of you…
It’s hard to know what to say, to put into words how this post made me feel. What a wonderful tribute. You knew him well, you really saw him. He lives on in you, in your values, your way of looking for joy in all the small things around you, your sense of humor, your love of adventure and fun, your commitment to the people you care for. He showed you what is really important.
The idea of an “altar” to him is a really nice thing. It keeps him and the life he built foremost in your mind, not just his passing. I’m glad you’re able to talk to him as you pass, I’m sure he’d love that. What a cool man he must have been – you really did win the lottery Laurel.
This must have been an incredibly difficult post to write. Your love for each other shines through your words. May your memories of this wonderful man sustain you in your heartbreak. Hugs to you both.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute with us, Laurel. This will be a different kind of Father’s Day for you as you continue to grieve the loss. I have found through the years that my parents are still with me in so many ways, and I have no doubt that you will continue to spend many happy hours with your dad.
Sometimes you meet a person’s family and you think, “I can see where she got her sense of humor, or her looks, or her values, or her sense of adventure, or her moral compass.” It’s usually one or two of those things. But with your descriptions of your dad in this post, I can see where you get all of who you are. You truly are a the complete product of your parents – you look like them, you live your life like they did, you value the same things, you have the same spirit. It’s truly a testament to them that you are who you are, and you are a good person who lives life to its fullest and loves her friends. I can’t imagine your dad wanting anything more in life than that.
This was a beautiful, heartfelt, moving tribute. Your dad was, undoubtedly, a wonderful man, and you were so fortunate to have him guide you through life. And he was equally fortunate to have you and the rest of his family to celebrate it all for 91 life affirming years.
Hugs to you.
So sorry to hear of your father’s passing, but so thankful you shared so much about his life with us. You’ve spread his love by doing this, a wonderful gift to us all.
I’m so very sorry for your loss. love.light.peace
So very sad for you (both). Let all those wonderful memories fill your broken heart. Big hugs
So very sorry for your loss Laurel. Your Dad sounds like a beautiful soul and your tribute to him a wonderful memoir. Take care and be well.
What an absolutely beautiful tribute to your father and to his life. I seriously envy you your win in the father lottery and your relationship with him. Not so many of us are that lucky. No wonder your mother loved him. She won the lottery too! A handsome man who seemed very wise. I can understand how much you must miss him and am so glad you are there in the place where he was for so many years. What a magnificent view as you look out over the waters he loved and called home. Blessings on you, on him and on your mom.
This made me cry. What you wrote about your dad was so beautiful.
It is always so cheering to know there are people who make the world a better place just by being in it. Discovering one of those people in your own family is probably the ultimate blessing. I am so glad for you that you have so many decades of wonderful memories of your dad. We know those memories will help sustain you through the difficult initial period of loss and only grow more important as you heal your own hurt by thinking of the sweetness of his life and his love for his family. Your dad lived a full life and knew he was well loved; it’s the best sort of tribute one can possibly receive.
I am so sorry for your loss, Laurel.
What a beautiful tribute to your Father.
What a beautiful tribute written by a daughter who was obviously so well loved. So amazing that your parents were together for 71 years. May your memories give you peace Laurel.
Oh Laurel, I’m so sorry to hear. This is such a lovely post and tribute to your dad’s memory. My sincerest condolences.
Wow, Laurel. Now I know where you get it. Actually lots of “it”s. With deep condolences for your loss, and thanks for all the reminders to treasure what I still have (my folks just celebrated their 65th last week)…
Laurel I have read your poignant post twice now. The last time, was aloud to Ben. It touched me to the core, because as you know, my dad died mid November and I am still struggling to find a way to write about it that does him justice. You did a beautiful job of writing this tribute. I feel as I though your dad came to life on this post and that I understand a touch of the man that he was and will remain, in spirit, always.
The photos are so wonderful. The one of him beaming a wide smile on the boat, gives a sense of his spirit of adventure and his love of life. Love the one of all of you together and the one of their wedding day too. I laughed out loud at the story of your dad on the roof at 88!! His stubbornness reminds me so much of my dad. They were pretty similar in that way.. It was very hard to convince my dad to start using a walker, a hearing aid, a wheel chair. He could never accept his new physical reality.
Clearly you get your adventurous spirit and road tripping ways from your dad, (or perhaps both your parents?).. classic case of “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
I wish I could come and give you a huge hug and we could tell dad stories to each other … Deepest condolences to your whole family. May his spirit live on in you and all of you.
Thinking of you today, Father’s Day.. The first thing I thought of this morning was, Oh, it’s the first fathers day without my dad. Your post was with me through the night as it brought up so many memories, thoughts and empathetic feelings in me.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. What a beautiful story. I feel like I got a glimpse into a very special person’s soul for a minute. I know you are grieving but what a wonderful way to honor him by sharing this special person with those of us who never knew him. I feel your sadness. I also feel like I’ve been sprinkled with joy at the same time. With love, Janet.
Well just when I thought you couldn’t write anything more beautifully, you did. You’re amazing. Sounds like you were lucky to have each other. I loved hearing stories of his sense of humor.
I hope you know how much we have been thinking about you too and sending hugs hugs and more hugs.
Sorry for your loss, Laurel. Lovely that you had him close for a long time. Be well. Robert and Colleen. (Back in Ashland)
Although you and I spoke Laurel, it was still heart-wrenching to read this post. Your father could not have asked for a more beautiful tribute from his daughter. How blessed you both were to have so many years together, experiences now softening into warm, comforting memories. In time I know those tears will turn to smiles and laughter as you revisit those memories. If you have to be grounded somewhere during this pandemic, I am thankful that you are in your family home, surrounded by all those years shared as a family, with nature just outside your door to comfort you. I love you so much, my friend. I am just a phone call away if you need to talk.
Laurel, just lovely. I lost my father when I was 22 years old and still tear up when I think about him!
Aren’t we the lucky ones to have such a wonderful Papas!
Hugs, Donna Rhee
So many friends have posted my sentiments that I’ll just remind you that we love you and miss you and that will be true where ever and whenever you think of us here on the western edge. Much like the separation of a continent so is the chasm between the living and the dead….easily crossed with a word (silent or uttered), a moment of remembrance, or a special scent that is a reminder that yes we are all simply stardust easily transforming and shapeshifting our Way on this fragile blue sphere we call home.
Hope the days ahead surround you with love and a continued realization of that “unbearable lightness of being”. Stay well, safe and passionate about life as your daddy taught and continues to instill within you!
More sunset and bird photos please….watch out tho I may just up and move there with you!
Laurel, thank you so much for sharing your memories of your dad. He sounds like such a wonderful man. Sounds like he lived a very long, full life filled with joy. What a beautiful way to grow up. Love your family photo. Something to carry you through the days ahead. It’s probably an omen that you had to stay at your parents home for an extended time. It is giving you some time with all the memories you made there with your dad and mom. Thinking of you and Eric. Miss you.
I am so very sorry that you have lost your dad, not only because you weren’t ready, but also because it had to happen during the pandemic. My heart goes out to you and all those who have lost loved ones and aren’t able to be with them in their final hours or gather with family and friends to grieve together. Your dad sounds like a wonderful man and I can only imagine how much you miss him. This is one of the most beautiful tributes I have ever read and the photos are so special. What great memories, which I hope bring you joy in the midst of your grief. I’m sending you warm thoughts and big hugs in the coming months.
Many blessings to you during this very tender time. I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the great photos. I wish I had been able to meet your Dad in person but you sure gave me a nice glimpse of him and his beautiful spirit.
Dear Laurel, Susan and I are so sorry that you have lost your dear father. What a wonderful tribute you have written. So beautifully expressed. He was special it is clear.
Love to you both and be safe in your travels.
I read the title a week ago but took awhile to come back and read what I knew would be a moving and heartfelt tribute to your dad. Knowing you weren’t able to be with him at the end is so sad yet you were fortunate to have said so much over the years. Certainly he passed feeling as blessed to have had you as a daughter as you feel to have hit the Dad Lottery. I too was very close to a special father, and also wasn’t with him when he died. By choice, it was tough. Holding you in the light and knowing your wonderful memories will bring you peace. Hugs my friend.
What a lovely tribute to your dad. I am so sorry for your loss … made all the more difficult because you weren’t there for one final good-bye. I understand that feeling as it was the same when my father passed away. May memories like the ones you shared in this post sustain you through the worst of your sadness.
What an honor you paid to your father with all the memories you have shared with us. The “greatest generation” was great in more ways than one. Having a father is a blessing, especially for girls and a necessity for boys. This was so touching. You have a gift for communicating.
Thank you Laurel.
Your dad is proud of you reading your loving and very beautiful tribute of him. Not only are you a spitting image of both your parents, but you are also exemplifying the life they have imparted on you.
May this tribute heals your aching heart and relives the many wonderful memories he had marked on you while growing up until now.
I was deeply touched and I can feel the love, you are such a great writer.
Take care and stay safe.