Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dear Dad (Father's Day 2014)

Dear Dad,

I don't think about you as often as I used to. There's no longer the searing pain in my heart that was there when you first died. But this weekend, it's always hard. It was yours.

Even after we started our own family, my husband enjoyed your Father's Day tradition. So we continued it with you and it became his. This is the 7th Father's Day we're celebrating without you. It's been difficult to find my bearings without you here.

Just yesterday, we still had our zoo day. It wasn't on Father's Day itself, but it was close enough. Old Country Buffet lost its appeal a little more each year without you. So eating breakfast there never even came on our radar this year. We just ate our first meal of the day at home.

Andelise Randall is a few months shy of 6-years-old. Her name is a reminder to me that she never met you, her Papa. (She shares your middle name.) Her excitement for the day could not be contained! "Tell me when we see the signs!" Every sign indicating the way to the zoo built up the anticipation.

We got to Brookfield Zoo right as it opened, just as you taught us. It's not the same zoo, however. (Was the carousel even there before you died? I don't think so.) The bears are no longer in the same location. Although I suppose we should be thankful they still have bears. Ande wanted to go there first but I thought the children's zoo would be better. Bad idea. They've destroyed that as well.

I loved going to the children's zoo with you! It seemed you were so relaxed there. It was always so nice to spend time with you when you'd allow yourself to just rest. We took our time. There was never a hurry.

Dad holding me at the Children's Zoo with my siblings
What a disappointment that they closed the children's zoo! (I supposed if I really thought about it, I was probably informed by a friend that it was closed but still... It appears it is a thing of the past and it saddens my heart.) I informed the employee, that came over to explain the area was under construction, of my disappointment. It seems there is always more construction and less animals every time we visit Brookfield Zoo! If it weren't for your tradition, I think I'd turn to Lincoln Park instead. (At least there are no expectations there for me.)

We went and saw the bears. Jaycie took over my camera and snapped pictures of everything she could... including herself. I've got to learn how to quit being disappointed when my expectations aren't met and just enjoy the moment. I'm like you in that way, Daddy.

We decided to leave the zoo to eat lunch at Russell's. I know you'd always charge ahead to see every animal possible and then reward us with Russell's for dinner but changing this up worked well for my family. (Nikelle, who will be 12 later this month, was especially happy because her lunch at the zoo on a recent school field trip left her pooped on by a bird. Her one request was that we didn't eat lunch outside.) We didn't have to stress over finding a parking space or finding a table. Lunch was enjoyable.

While I now understand well why we didn't get a choice of what we'd order growing up, I let my girls choose. Ande ordered a hamburger. The rest of us would have made you happy as we each chose the 1/2 barbecue chicken meal. I was surprised Nikelle and Jaycie made that choice but it was the right one!

I wish I had my camera inside with me to take a picture of our little 8-year-old blondie gobbling up her meal. (We're still behind the time with our old phones that don't capture pictures like new technology does these days.) That girl enjoyed every bite of that chicken to the bone! We aren't even sure how she managed to fit it inside her little body! She was a mess with the tasty Russell's barbecue sauce all over her hands and face.

I could hear your laugh inside my head. You would have responded with such joy over this simple moment: Your granddaughter, devouring the adult-sized meal you so enjoyed as well! My heart was full as my eyes fought back tears. I still miss you.

We drove back to the zoo which brought us past a Menards. That store will always be identified with you. I rarely step foot into on because my heart still twists every time.

Then I knew it was coming... I decided that I would point out that stupid place to my girls this time: Loyola Hospital. I wish there was no story to tell but I told it. "Girls, this is the hospital that tried to help keep your Papa alive." It frustrates me that there's no emotions in my girls hearts over any of it because I still wrestle with it against my will. (They were 5, 2 and in the womb when you died. How could I expect them to feel any emotion when Nikelle struggles to remember you?)

Their daddy begins to tell stories about the many trips his grandparents spent at that hospital. He tells an account of how his Grandma broke a record with the size of a tumor doctors pulled out of her stomach there. I know he has his own stories but I'm still wrestling with demons as he tells his light-hearted story. I'm frustrated that I even have a story to identify with that hospital.

I try to wrap up my feelings as I inform the girls of a more tangible part of the story for them. "Your Grams spent many an uncomfortable night sleeping in that hospital caring for your Papa." That was that. My mind went to my cousin who is spending time with her 8-year-old daughter in a hospital in Michigan trying to determine why the little girl is in so much pain. I prayed for her as we went back to the zoo.

We saw the penguins despite Ande's aversion to the noise of the giant splashing wave. I assured her she didn't have to be scared. Memories take me back to the times you'd find great joy in positioning each of your grandchildren under the clear glass and wait with them for what you knew would catch them by surprise. Unknowingly, they would listen to their Papa only to jump when the wave crashed on the glass. You'd laugh and we'd join in because your laugh was always contagious.

Our girls enjoy the Hamill Family Play Zoo. It costs extra money, so I don't think you ever set foot on the inside of it. Nikelle helped Ande paint her face as a pink bunny and Jaycie enjoyed drawing art on her own arms. At the end of our day, Andelise braved touching a Boa Constrictor in the same type of setting we would have had opportunity to pet the pony at the children's zoo.

I suppose it didn't end our day - just our time at the zoo. We still followed the tradition of making the trek to The Plush Horse for some ice cream. We just were able to enjoy it a bit more since we weren't stuffed with barbecue chicken immediately prior to going. My girls each enjoyed one scoop of ice cream each. Yes, only one scoop. I know you'd never hear of anything less than a double scoop. Don't worry, Rod and I still enjoyed two flavors each. (And the girls couldn't even finish what they had.)

Anyway, thanks for having big expectations. At times, as a kid, it was difficult to sit by as you wrestled with the disappointment you experienced. As an adult, however, who struggles in the same way, I'm thankful your expectations were big. You simply wanted to give your children the full enjoyment of the things that brought you pleasure. They do, Dad. We do. Your grandkids do, too.

And I look forward to enjoying Heaven with you one day too.

Your Grateful Daughter,


1 comment:

  1. That zoo picture is one of my favorites. "Happy, Happy, Happy, Fun, Fun, Fun". Sounds like you improved on an old tradition by having lunch at lunch time! Another picture I have been trying to locate is of Dad holding 8-month-old (?) baby Trent in one arm and his Bible in the other at our first family church on LaPorte Road which was then called Parkview Baptist Church. I like the analogy of that one: Fathers: Please lead your children, your families, to the Lord, to His Word.