Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I can't find the right words...

Today is Wednesday, Dec. 28th, 2011. 

10 days ago, my dad died.

[no, that's not right. delete it.]

I am 30 years old.  My dad was 61 when he died last week.

[no, awful. delete.]

This blog is usually about education, but today's post will be something I just need to get out.

[no. delete.]

I can't find the words.  I can't find the right words to even begin this post.  It's about my dad.  My dad, who died 10 days ago, at the age of 61.  I can't find the right words to tell this story and so, if you don't already know the story, you may have no idea what I'm writing.  And that's okay. Because I am writing this one for me. 

My dad has been sick. He had two major strokes, liver damage, lung damage, heart disease, high blood pressure.  He mad some bad choices in his life.

And he also made some great ones.  He was a good man.

My dad was smart.  He was smarter than he knew and he taught me a lot of things, not by talking, talking, talking about them, but by showing us (my older sister and I) what was important.  I wonder what her list would look like... I am sure this list was different 11 days ago.  And it may even be different 11 days from now.

The Top 10 Things I Think My Dad Taught Me in somewhat random order... 

10. Pet the dog under his collar.  Everyone else forgets that the dog needs to be scratched there.  Rub his neck under his collar and he will be your dog. Forever.  (Dad, Pepper and Otis will always be your dogs.)

9. If you are holding the hand of someone you love, no matter who it is, squeeze their hand 3 times.  This means "I. Love. You."  (Dad, I even do this to my students. :) )

8. It's okay to cry. It's even okay for boys to cry. Or men.  Cry at commercials, cry at the movies, cry wherever you want. Just don't make a big scene and don't forget your hankie. (Dad, I'm crying now. Big surprise.)

7. Drink in moderation.  (Okay, let's be honest Dad, neither of us were very good at this.)

6. Do Your Best.  Every day.  In every thing.  DYB.  (Dad, I will. I promise.)

5.  Turn off the lights.  And recycle.  Funny, he wasn't all that eco-friendly, but these two things were so important to him.  I guess it was what he could do to help save the Earth. (Dad, I wonder if they ever made a building or a new book from all the aluminum and newspapers that you recycled.)

4. Be thoughtful.  Even this year, when my dad was ill and wearing pajamas 24/7, he managed to order us flowers and goodie baskets to be delivered for Sweetest Day.  And he always sent a card.  There's still a card on his night stand for his best friend/next door neighbor who would helped him.  I have to remember to send that card. (Dad, you didn't even know how thoughtful you could be, even if you told mom to buy all the cards and you just signed your name.)

3. Education comes first.  I really believe my dad's life goal included sending my sister and I to college and seeing us graduate.  Cool that he also got to see our diplomas when we each got a Master's Degree as well.  He never let us forget that school comes first. No wonder I'm a teacher and Sarah's a guidance counselor!  School comes first.  (Dad, Family comes first. Then School.)

2. Be generous.  There are a lot of people that don't have what we have.  Don't pity them.  Help them out.  My dad would take turkeys to St. Augustine.  He would take socks and new clothes there.  He would take school supplies to help "Stuff the Bus."  He helped my uncle start a business and my aunt buy a house.  He let his brother live in our house and gave him money even when he didn't deserve it.  He helped put the roof on our church.  He would give extra money, and time, to any one who needed it.  He loved my kids and wanted to hand me money or help every time I saw him. (Dad, this is one of the most important things in the world to me.  And so many people remember this about you and will never forget.)

1. Say "I love you."  Never stop saying it.  Say it 4 times in a half hour visit if you want to.  Call the answering machine just to say it. And show it.  But don't forget to say it. (Dad, now that you're gone, there is no question whether you loved us or not.  We know. And we love you.  A Lot.)

My dad died 10 days ago, and I didn't know it would feel this bad.

[This sucks.]