My dad recently retired from a successful career in sales and marketing. It seemed fitting to share a letter I wrote to him as a part of our family retirement celebration this weekend. Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere!
Whenever I sift through all of our times together, there’s one memory I always return to – one that’s Technicolor clear even though I wasn’t more than five years old at that time.
I remember being on a boat with just you for our special “date” together. You asked me to get our sandwiches out of the cooler. You had packed my favorite – salami on rye bread topped with mustard a few crisp, cold slices of iceberg lettuce. Yeah, this was well before I’d abandoned my carnivorous ways and turned into a freaky vegetarian. Anyway, I slowly opened the cooler to find not only salami sandwiches but also a doll I’d been coveting.
I’m not sure why this is such vibrant memory for me. Sure, I loved that doll, but she’s not the real reason I can remember the day so vividly from the navy and white striped t-shirt I was wearing underneath the bright orange lifejacket to the stretch of blue sky above us. And I don’t even like to eat salami anymore. (Since I now eat white meat again, perhaps there is hope. Maybe I’ll be slicing up salami again someday, too.)
The real reason that memory stands out is because it was a time when I had my daddy all to myself. It’s also one of the first memories I have of you being generous with someone, and lucky me, I was the recipient of your giving. You gave me so much more than a boat ride, a doll, and good lunch that day; you gifted me your time, attention, and love.
So many things will continue to make me think of you…
Like horses. Like diapers. :-) Like generosity and what it means to give without counting the cost (or the pennies). Like ambition and working hard. Like being a leader. Like Saint Joseph. Like Sam the Monkey. Like laughter and why being silly is an excellent antidote to stress. Like hypochondria. Like love notes tucked in empty coffee cups and on post-it notes.
Just recently you shared something else that made me all weepy. I’d sent one of my infamous apology emails after feeling like I’d emotionally dumped on my family. It was after the night when we could not get M.E. to sleep, and you eventually took over. In an email from you, you wrote:
“When I was rocking and consoling Mary Elizabeth the other night, it came rushing back to me how it seemed like just yesterday that I was doing exactly the same thing with you when you were struggling with colic. I thought of how it was so hard then and so worth it now seeing the woman you have become. The cycle of life is amazing. The day will be here in a blink of an eye when you will be seeing Mary Elizabeth struggle as a mom and wish that you had the energy to carry her whole cross instead of just small parts for small periods of time.”
I read that snippet from time to time to remind me that “this too shall pass” and when it does, I’m going to miss it all – the chaos, the little girls that have freakishly big, loud voices and screeches, the sticky hands, the nighttime cuddles…
It also makes me think of you and how you carried the heavy cross of a demanding job and of all the long hours you put in just to make so many of our dreams come true. Sunny. College. Dream weddings. Atlantis trips. Playhouses for your grandkids. The list goes on…
Then, when your long and illustrious career draws to an end, there’s no grand celebration. The first dinner we plan for you gets canceled. Your wife is sick. Your mom is battling old age in your home. Your daughter is sick of being tired. Yet, you keep giving. You may not be carrying your own cross of stressful and endless work or completely shouldering the cross of those you love, but you are certainly a Simon, getting very little glory, yet lightening the load for others.
A lot of people would be feeling sorry for themselves. Nearly three decades of work, and this is what I get? Yet, all I’ve seen from you is a quiet acceptance of what is as well as more generosity and grace.
When Dave comes home after a long day and has to face a wife and children who want his undivided attention, I’m often reminded of you and everything you did for our family and everything you taught me about having a strong work ethic – and strong morals. This year, more than ever, I have realized what a sacrifice you made for all of us. As I’ve watched Dave work long and hard and yet never complain, I realize now that I often took the sacrifice you made for our family for granted. I’ll never forget when I was complaining about a less than ideal job I was toiling away at, and you told me there were many days you wanted to just quit. But you couldn’t. There was no room for selfishness; you had a family to provide for. And provide for you did.
You may not be bringing home the bacon anymore, but you’re still providing. You’re giving love to Mama; you’re sending me encouraging texts to help me get through another tiring, tough day. You’re looking out for others because that’s what a good father does. He protects. He serves. He thinks of others before himself.
I’m so proud of you, Dad. Congratulations on your retirement. I know I’m always saying I’m praying for Mama, and I am. However, I’m praying for you, too. My desire for you both is to enjoy this time together, to travel, to go on long boat rides, to visit with grandkids, and to reap the fruits of your years and years of hard work. May your golden years glitter…
I love you so much. You’re a great dad and provider.
Your M.L.M.D.M.T.D….always and always.