Thursday, January 12, 2012

The last day I really remember my father

Last week was the 19th anniversary of my father’s death. It’s weird that he has been dead so long and every year I remember less and less about him. I’m sure that’s what’s expected with those who have passed away and I know that some day I’ll just be left with random flashes of the first 14 years of memories involving him. Already I have forgotten the last day he was alive. I can’t remember anything that he said or did that day. I can’t think about seeing any sort of indication that it would be his last day because honestly I doubt that he even knew it would be. His death came fast and unexpected. Well as unexpected as someone who is dying can happen.  When I really think about it I don’t even remember much about the last months he was alive. The last big things that I remember about my dad were the days we spent in Hawaii. When I flash back to things I remember most it’s those few days I keep going back to.

We went to Hawaii because he always loved the ocean.  I know in my heart that I got my love of the ocean some how from him. I know that he always spent tons of time scuba and photographing all the wonders and magic found underwater.  I know that he was excited to have one last chance to get back in the water even if just to snorkel around with the fish. Very early on into our trip we went to a beach expecting to do just that, and he quickly realized that he didn’t have the lung capacity to breath through a snorkel and wasn’t strong enough to support himself swimming in the ocean. He wasn’t able to do that one last thing I know he was dreaming about doing. So he sat alone on the beach never letting on about the disappointment he must have felt, all because he wanted his children to get to experience all the joys that he was missing out on.  Him taking a back seat to our activities became a common theme during the rest of the trip. We would hike to volcanoes or waterfalls and he would sit behind waiting. Taking pictures of random wild birds and cats until we returned. We would go to beaches and he would watch as we all boogie boarded or snorkeled until we were all exhausted and worn out from the day’s activities. 

The problem with my father is that I never knew how he felt about missing out on all these parts of the vacation that I know we took because it was his dream. He never really talked about it, but I know it must have caused some disappointment in knowing that all these things he once loved were now out of reach. It must have made him feel almost fragile or maybe it was a way for him to know the end was coming soon.  I will never know and so I have stopped wondering. What I do know is that he never seemed too unhappy missing out. I will always be grateful that he let us have the chance to do all the great things on this vacation that he wasn’t able to.  He never showed resentment or anger and got bitter with us because we were able to do things and he was not. He selflessly gave us the opportunities to do wonderful stuff he would have loved. I remember that at one point we were going to take this boat out and go snorkel out on a coral reef. I was pretty excited about getting the chance to see some sea turtle and was really looking forward to going. My mom and brother and I were going to go while my dad was staying at the hotel for the day alone.  For some reason and to be honest I have never really understood why but that morning I changed my mind and decided that I wanted to stay and hang with my dad for the day instead. Looking back this day is the last thing I really remember about him and I’m so forever grateful that I got to have it.

The Two of us started the day at the beach where he told me all about crazy poisonous snails that can kill people in one second and we collected all kinds of shells and flowers.  We had lunch at McDonalds where I remember they messed up our order and we went back again to get it corrected. I remember that he ate this giant hamburger that had like three patties and tons of cheese on it. I guess at this point he didn’t need to worry about his cholesterol or fat intake. But again going there and eating greasy burgers and fries was so outside of something my mom would ever let us do it was nice to get to share that moment with him. We spent the afternoon in a local town going to the whale museum. I was obsessed with whales and remember looking at bones and pictures just soaking up all that he could tell me about everything he knew. My father if nothing else was a great teacher. The last thing we did on our day together was go shopping. My dad wanted to get an authentic Hawaiian shirt and I remember that I was with him when he found the perfect one. I still have it in my closet. Its navy blue and has these purple and teal fish all over it and it’s pretty tacky really. But anyone who remembers my dad and his crazy outfits would know it’s exactly what he would have chosen. After he died and we started to divide up all the things of his life between us, it was the only idem I really wanted.  Because that shirt had brought this perfect day to an end. 

6 months later my father died.  Here’s the thing about that day; it wasn’t really anything all that special, and part of me has always been disappointed that I didn’t get to go out on the boat and see some turtles like my mom and brother did.   But as I get older and older and his death becomes farther and farther away, it has become one of the most special days I got to have with him.  It’s become the day where I remember him the most.  It’s this day that I look back on and see my dad; not as the sick, dying, frail man that he was sadly becoming. But instead just the loving, smart, kind and caring father that I knew before. The one full of life and sarcastic comments and super tacky taste in shirts.   So many times during that day we spent together he was just fun… and funny… and sweet… and cracking jokes… and teaching me awesome random shit about whales and killer snails… and genuinely enjoying spending the day with his 13 year old daughter.  He is the man who I look back on that day and remember. He is the father who I miss so much even 19 years later.


  1. Beautiful Story Martha. Sounds like a perfect day.

  2. What can I say, you have brought my love for your Dad and you so close to my attention Im of course in tears of joy!!! I love you for it MOM