Saturday, June 14, 2008

Father's Day Tradition

This weekend holds a lot of emotion. Father’s Day. That I can recall, we have never had a year where we didn’t spend the day with my dad. Mother’s Day was spent with Rod’s family which allowed us to guiltlessly spend Father’s Day with mine.

Brookfield Zoo. That’s been the tradition on Father’s Day for years in our family. I recall last year specifically. Dad was battling this darn cancer. He had no hair - not even the little he had before the disease. I have a picture of him soaking up some of the misting water from the cooling stations they have at the zoo. I picture a healthier dad from years past drinking his coffee at breakfast with his plate piled high with food at Old Country Buffet and making wise cracks. I picture him opening homemade cards from the grandkids and sporting his “Please act shocked that I’m a Grandpa” t-shirt. It’s hard to think about Father’s Day without my dad.

Every year since I was little, it was a tradition to visit Brookfield Zoo once a year. It was another thing that he felt was kept special by limiting the visit to only once a year. We used to eat at McDonald’s when we were kids on the way to the zoo every year. I can picture it in my head. The specific “zoo” McDonald’s for our family. Dad was always so generous when it came to special occasions. At the same time, he remained frugal. I’m really not certain how he did it. He made these moments special. We didn’t take home souvenirs, we didn’t eat lunch at the zoo (or lunch for that matter), we didn’t do anything that cost extra at the zoo other than the children’s zoo and yet, we didn’t feel the least bit deprived.

From our pictures on the stone lions to petting the goats at the children’s zoo, there are so many memories from one day of tradition over the years. Whether it’s holding my Daddy’s hand or watching my girls hold Papa’s hand as I now held the hand of my husband, memories flood my mind and fill my heart.

We’ve always ate dinner at Russell’s BBQ chicken. No one purchased anything growing up other than the BBQ chicken meal. There is a large round table that we liked to sit at due to the size of our family and being so hungry, the chicken always tasted fantastic.

Our day was completed with ice cream at the Plush Horse (recently rated #2 in Chicago for ice cream). Despite his frugality, everyone was expected to get a double scoop and eat it. I loved this tradition despite my tears more than once. I don’t know why it was my misfortune, but more than once, my double scoop ended up on the ground rather than on my taste buds. Because of my mishaps, we learned to order the double scoops in a cup with the cone on top. I can still picture dad smiling as we recall these memories while he enjoyed his butter pecan and coffee flavors outside.

Over the years, we’ve changed things slightly. Not everyone attends every part of the day. It’s better that we all do what will keep our families happiest so we don’t end up with fights and tears. I’ve learned to bring snacks or a small lunch for my family (especially myself) so that the end of the day isn’t spoiled. Our girls will get chicken nuggets at Russell’s and only a kids’ scoop at the Plush Horse. Still, in honor of Dad, we hold to these traditions while the heartstrings pull.

I’m looking forward to a day of fun and family tomorrow all the while anticipating that I will be choked up at numerous moments fighting back the tears. I’m grateful my girls have their Daddy to store up memories with. My heart will need to learn to treasure our altered “family” times as I thank God for a Dad who held tightly to traditions.


  1. I've been thinking about you lately with Father's Day coming up. What a bittersweet day for both you and Rod. Keep your focus. Treasure every moment. And don't forget the picture with the stone lions!


  2. I will be shooting up prayers for you whenever I think of you today!