On November 1, 2016 as I sat on my dad’s hospital bed, and held his hand while prayed together, I thought of how blessed I was to have him as my dad. And as we prayed that God would put peace in his heart, we both looked out the window as we shared such a beautiful conversation.
He said, “Rhonda, I don’t understand how anyone cannot believe in God when the sky is so vast and nature is so beautiful.” I told him that I didn’t understand either, but that I was just grateful that he had peace in his heart. I said goodbye that afternoon, knowing it would probably be the last time I hugged him, held his hand, smelled him, and told him I loved him in person and I was OK with it. My dad gave me a lifetime of memories that I will cherish forever. My dad passed away on November 17, 2016 after a rapid bout with lung cancer.
There were so many things about my dad that I admired.
My dad had a gift of talking to people. It wasn’t that he talked so much but rather that he was just interested in other people. Whether it was meeting a business man on a train ride to San Francisco, a waitress at a small restaurant, the person next to him on a flight, his Egyptian oncologist, his nurses, our friends, the guy next to him in line, he simply never met a stranger. He loved to learn about other people, and he never felt he was better than anyone or that anyone was better than him. People were people. Everyone had a story and he had to find out what it was.
I’ll never forget the time when I was about 13-years old, a giddy young teenager with a passion for sports. I begged my dad to take me to a boxing match in our home town. The only way we could get tickets was to stand in line at the Civic Center for hours waiting for the box office to open. My dad didn’t care about boxing, but he knew I wanted to go, so we got in line at 6:00 a.m. and waited.
It wasn’t long before he made acquaintances with the dad and son in front of us in line. By 7:30 a.m., he knew everything about them. By 8:30 a.m., we were sitting on the floor while saving our spot in line and we were playing cards with our new friends. The time passed quickly. My dad wasn’t just going to stand in line for hours. He made the best of it by making friends along the way and was always so interested in learn about them.
Perhaps because he was so interested in other people that it was easy for him to not care about others thought of him. My dad knew who he was, what he liked and if you didn’t like what he liked, he quite frankly didn’t care.
Sometimes this was an inconvenience when you got him a gift he didn’t like. He really didn’t like gifts at all, but other times, it was his absolute best quality and never was that more evident than on my wedding day. He taught me to dance like no one is watching.
I think every girl dreams of having that first father daughter dance at her wedding, but I’m convinced mine was more special than most. It wasn’t because it was a tearjerker, but it was quite the contrary.
The DJ called for my dad and I and the music started. You can imagine my shock and dismay when he started to play the WRONG song. This was not Stevie Wonder’s, “Isn’t She Lovely” but rather a totally inappropriate song for a our first dance.
But my dad didn’t seem to care nor did he know the difference. He probably thought I would want him to get a little cardio workout in as the high tempo song began. And we just started dancing anyway. My dad spun me, twirled me, we shook our hips, we laughed and the guests cheered.
I was simply disappointed after the song. What would the people think? Then one by one, guests came up to tell me what an interesting song choice that was. They had never seen anything like it and thought it was such a great idea! That’s the most awesome dance they ever witnessed, many claimed. If it hadn’t been for my dad’s ability to not care, we would have never created that beautiful memory. We truly danced as if no one was watching.
I remember during that November conversation I had with him when he told me how much he loved having so many kids and how he would have loved to have many more children. Family was everything to my dad and he loved my mom so much. My parents were married for 53 years, they had five children and eleven grandchildren and one great grandchild. With that many grandchildren, my dad loved being a grandpa and had something special with of all of them.
He had something special with each grandchild. My son Jackson had the great fortune to spend time with my parents each summer. Jackson is a lot like my dad. He likes to talk and he’s very much an old soul. Each morning they would read the paper together, just enjoying the quiet morning and the company of each other.
One summer he suggested my son Jackson have a lemonade stand out in front of his house since Jackson is a lot like my dad and has no problem talking to anyone. For two hours Jackson pulled in cars off the street with his ability to talk to others. My dad was so proud that in that short time, my son sold more lemonade than I sold in my entire childhood!
It brings me so much comfort to think back to that conversation we had back in November. Because now I know he’s on the other side of our conversation. He’s in a beautiful place, probably making everyone laugh and making friends with everyone, just like he did here.
I can’t wait to see him again.