Happy 60th Birthday, Dad!

I cannot even imagine the crazy celebration we would be having if dad were still with us today. It would be epic. There would be steak, and crab legs, and the Rolling Stones, and toasts and hugs and so many people and it would go long past my bedtime.

I’ve found that it’s pretty much impossible for me to ever write about my dad without sobbing in the process. But I do it because it’s cathartic and important. Instead of weeping about how much I miss him, I want to write a post of a few of my favorite and most vivid memories of my dad during the 26 amazing years I got to have him.

In no particular order, I give you some pretty great memories of my pop:

Going on roller coasters/waiting in line for roller coasters. This was our thing! Whether we were at Six Flags or elsewhere, we sought out roller coasters, would wait hours in line, and then scream our heads off… and then, of course, do it again. While we waited in these long, seemingly unmoving lines, there were no smartphones to scroll through and pass the time with. We talked about all the things, people-watched, and truly just enjoyed hanging out together.

My dad’s wardrobe. His attire ranged from professional business suits, complete with overcoat and scarf to the most ragged, scrubbiest please-God-don’t-go-out-like-that-in public sweats you’ve ever seen. There was no in-between (well, maybe if he was going golfing). One sweatshirt he wore until it was nearly see-through I remember referring to as “the tear shirt” because I remember wiping tears off my face with it when I was little. (I was rather sensitive and a crier… and I still am!) He also had a pair of shorts I referred to as his “sword-fighting shorts” because they were so shredded. And that funny name stuck, because really who gets into sword fights anymore these days?

3.) His chauffeuring services. For a good six years, Robbyn and I would have ice time in the mornings before school, sometimes needing to be on the ice at 6 am. And we needed someone to drive us there. So, we’d have to wake up my dad to some degree and get him in the driver’s seat so he could drive us the two miles to Oak Lawn Ice Arena. And I swear he was driving in his sleep but we always made it there safely! (He was usually way more awake when he then picked us up and drove us to school). And this was only a small fraction of all the driving around he did for us and all of our activities in our youth. (There are obviously no photos to go along with this memory, so here’s him and couple Corvettes because Corvettes were his jam.)

4.) Skating together! Speak of skating, we were an on-ice type of family for so many years and he frequently hopped on the ice with us. When I was small, I used to be so impressed by how he could skate fast, skate backwards, spray us with snow doing hockey stops. We all eventually moved up to his talent level, and maybe a little past it, but I’ll always remember his spritely self on the ice when his knees were still good! (Here he is dropping the puck at one of my bro’s senior night game)

5.) Showing up for every event/ extracurricular activity. It didn’t matter how important or how lame the activity was, he showed up (not always on time, but he showed up). He even came to my D.A.R.E. “graduation” because I was in a skit that I was nervous about it. (Anyone remember D.A.R.E. ??) He would jet on over to school during his lunch break if I was doing a reading at mass. He came to school plays, ice skating competitions, cheerleading competitions with a video camera in hand. These are things I’m sure he would care nothing of if it weren’t for the fact that we were involved.

The way he and my mom were. This is something that will stay with me forever. Although not perfect by any means (because whose marriage actually is??), I always noticed that Mom and Dad were different from my peers’ parents. They weren’t super lovey dovey, but instead were truly the best of friends. Their camaraderie, their banter, their inside jokes, their love for travel and concerts, the thoughtful things they would do for each other, the way they supported, surprised, lit up rooms together, and stood by each other each other heavily influenced the vision I had for my own life as an adult. I’ve known since I was little that I wanted a family of my own and I knew that I wanted it with someone who was my best friend and I wouldn’t settle for love and life and a partner that felt less than exceptional. I can never thank my parents enough for showing me how love should look and feel.

His deep love of food. From eating Cup-O-Noodles in bed with a Pepsi, to going crazy over all-you-can-eat prime rib, to ordering those scary big sandwiches from Ricobene’s, to passionately cooking pork chops or some other form of meat, he was a man who loved to eat! Ironically now, he has three adult kids who love to cook. Being in the mood for food apparently runs in the family!

His doodling talents. Dad was gifted at so many things. He was an eloquent (and motivational!) speaker, a fast learner, a great leader, but also an impressive artist! I still have cards saved with silly illustrations and even this old t-shirt he made me by drawing My Little Ponies with fabric paint (before My Little Ponies took on that big-headed, big-eyed, ridiculous look).

Watching him be a grandpa! I can never write about my dad without mentioning what an off-the-charts grandfather he was. For almost two years I got to witness the awesomeness of my dad as a grandpa to Cece. It wasn’t just how much he loved Cece, but how happy he was for me too. He knew I was on the path of parenthood now and it would light up my life like nothing else. I feel closer to him now that I have these two girls and one boy just like he did (and all with seriously similar personalities to me and my siblings) and I feel that I can more deeply understand why he did the things that he did. Why he worked so hard, laughed so hard, and loved so much. I actually can’t even fathom how crazy he would be about Ares and Rosie if had been able to meet them too, but I try to imagine it sometimes.

Sometimes when I’m feeling down, in need of motivation, advice, or just love, I think of him and remember him. I remember what it felt like to be hugged by him and I imagine the advice he might give. And it makes me feel better every time. He somehow balanced patting me on the back and also kicking me in the pants when I needed it. He made me believe I could do anything and be anything I wanted to be, and as trite as it sounds, I still believe those things. Even if you aren’t close to me, or didn’t know my dad and are still reading this, I hope that this post serves an example of how powerful love actually is. How it lives on and on and how it gets passed down through generations. Honestly, I think that’s the meaning of life. Taking all that love that was given to us, putting our own unique stamp on it, and then passing on that love however we can and whenever we can. The process creates something so beautiful and so much bigger than we are.

This list felt a little random and silly… and honestly quite dinky as it’s a small, small fraction of the things I love and miss about him, but also felt good to write and to get out of my heart and out onto….a blog post I guess. I could write about dad forever, and I intend to for as long as I’m alive.

Happy 60th Birthday, Dad! I love you to infinity and beyond.