September has always been a funny time of year for me. It is a month filled with ups and downs, beginnings and endings and also, for the past three years, many tears because September 14th was my father’s birthday. He would have turned 61 this coming Monday. The last of the pepper would probably be gone from his salt-and-pepper hair, but his smile and his goofy nature would be the same. He would still stride around confidently, stick his finger in my ear to tease me unless I noticed what he was up to and swatted his hand away and try to pour beer out of a bottle onto my brother’s head without his noticing. My brother usually did not notice.
Because my father, even though we suspect always struggled with depression, did not start having really serious bouts of it until he was in his thirties and I only started noticing something was quite right with him until I was 13 or 14 and even after that, oh, what a tease he could be, what a joker.
He was so many wonderful things: an athlete, a singer, a foodie, but above all, he was a wonderful father, the best he could be. He taught me how to fish and to love the outdoors. He took me to my horseback riding lessons every second week (he and my mom alternated) and always came to parents night when I was in gymnastics. There are so many things that I have that my father has given to me: my love of the ocean, my love and talent for music, my patience, my perseverance, my love of good food and the enjoyment I get out of cooking, I also know how to BBQ better than a lot of guys I know thanks to him. I got my crazy good memory from him, my blue eyes are his exactly, and I can size up a person within a few seconds just like he did as well.
I wish I had been able to have more time with him, especially in my 20s when I was finally out on my own and I started discovering just how much we had in common. Unfortunately that’s when he really started to become more ill. It was harder and harder to get my father out of his shell in the last five years of his life, but every once in a while he would poke out for a bit and I’m so grateful for that, because it gave me a few last good memories of him that help lead me to others from my childhood.
There is so much that I see and do every day that makes me think ‘Gosh, Daddy would have loved this!’ or ‘Daddy wouldn’t believe I’m doing this!’ I’ll never forget the one and only time I got a speeding ticket heading up north and how my father sounded very impressed when I told him about it. ‘You can speed?!’ he said, like I was a chip off the old block. Because yes, I drive fast and my dad did too. I am my father’s daughter. Maybe not in the most obvious ways, but in all the wonderful, subtle ways that made my father the beautiful, complex person he was. I’m so happy about that, even if it makes me sad sometimes because there are so many things that he and I could have done together if life had worked out differently. I know that he is watching over me, he has shown me that he is in many ways since he passed away, but sometimes I miss his physical presence so much, especially his smell and the sound of his voice that it makes my heart ache in a way I can’t describe, especially at this time of year when I imagine what it would have been like to watch my father enjoy his retirement and go fishing and cycling and eventually become a grandfather. Because he would have made a wonderful grandfather. That’s what wonderful father become.