dad

520 days

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521 days ago, I realized I wasn't keeping in touch with either of my parents as much as I wanted to be in touch with them. I wanted to be in contact with them frequently, so that they knew I was thinking about them, that I was hoping they were doing well, that I love them, and that I was hoping they were healthy and enjoying life.

I had recently started using Habit List on my phone, so I added "Mom" and "Dad" to my daily habit list tracker to start the next day. My goal was to contact Mom and Dad very day for a year. Could we stay in touch daily for a year? Phone calls, emails, texts, visiting, all of these counted as "staying in touch." Sending a text by itself didn't count as staying in touch, they had to respond and engage in a conversation for me to be able to say, "Yes, I contacted each of my parents today."

Worth it If he doesn't remember?

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In November of 2013, I took my dad to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, as a birthday present to him. It was the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Dad had never been to Gettysburg. He did have the Address somewhat memorized from childhood, and was excited to spend a long weekend with his daughter (at least, that's what he told me). I invited my older brother along, and the three of us met up in Chicago. We flew to Washington DC, then rented a car, and drove to Gettysburg.

Smartly, we didn't go on the weekend of the 150th anniversary, choosing to go the week after: fewer people, less crowding. Go us.

Ice cream with Dad

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On the way to the airport today, Dad commented, "we should have stopped for ice cream," just as we were at Midway. It was 3:13PM, my flight wasn't until 4:45PM, and really, having ice cream with Dad? Totally worth being late for. I encouraged him to turn around, let's go! He was a little surprised, but turned right and we were on our way.

Ice cream with Dad has become our little bonding moments. Well, ice cream and cupcakes. Apparently sugar-cravings run in the family. Go us.

I like how much of a little kid Dad is when he has a bowl of ice cream. He knows how to enjoy them, and it makes me very happy to see him smiling and grinning over them. So, yeah, if I'm late for my flight, meh, so I have a crappy seat; if I miss it, there's the next one. I'm willing to miss a flight to hang out with Dad for just a little longer.

Sundae with Dad

I ended up at the airport at 3:45PM, through the (wrong) security line by 4:19PM (the priority line had the x-ray machine, and the peon line had only metal detectors, so, yeah, peon line for me!), and at the gate by 4:25PM. Totally worth taking that chance for ice cream with Dad.

Remembering a meltdown

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Today I witnessed the complete and total meltdown of a four year old. He was upset about something or other that I suspect neither he, nor his father, actually remembered. The wailing, the tears, the destructive moment, the pounding, the air-hitting, all of it warped into a

And I thought about the number of times I had done that as a child. I recall only a few, but certainly not because I had only a few. I'm sure I had a lot more than a few, with that certainty coming from my grumpy face in more than a small number of family photos.

Actually, of the photos of my childhood that I actually have, my nose is red from crying more often than it is not.

I was clearly either a frustrated and / or frustrating child.

After seeing the meltdown, I texted both my mom and my dad and apologized, once again, for being such a horrible child. I'm not sure I actually was any more difficult than any other child, as a whole I couldn't have been too bad: I didn't use drugs, I enjoyed going to school, I had good grades, I had good friends. There's a difference, however, between being a good kid and being an easy kid.

And I know that I wasn't an easy kid.

Both my parents responded.

What my dad REALLY thinks

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Yep, this pretty much sums up what my dad thinks about my picture taking habits.

Jolly old man

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I hate to think of my parents as old. Aside from the fact that such a thought means I'm old, too, it also brings thoughts of loss too close to the surface. Jessica commented on some picture of Mom not too long ago, saying, hey, she sure looked old. I think I refrained from saying, "You're no spring chicken yourself, sweetie," but I can't be sure. The sentiment certainly applies to both of us, too.

If you're lucky, you manage to capture some of your parents' essence, the part that makes you smile. You know, like those pictures of the jolly old man sitting in a chair, usually with some kid on his lap? And he has that look of contentment on his face? The picture that fills you with warm fuzzies?

No kid, but I did manage one of my dad that makes me smile. Fits right in with the not-so-subtle orneriness of that man.

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Hot chocolate cures all

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Still strong on my hot chocolate kick, our walk outside in the freezing (below freezing?) weather meant we could indulge in hot chocolate guilt free.

Not that I ever feel guilty drinking hot chocolate made from dark chocolate and milk. Practically a health drink!

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Doggen walken, Indiana style

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So, Dad and Linda now have two doggen instead of just one. Willy passed away a bit ago (fewer than four months ago, since that was when I was out last). I'm more upset that they didn't tell me about his passing than I am about his passing, I think.

I suggested we take the two doggen for a walk today. Dad looked at me like I was insane. "Horizonal. Snow. Winds?" was all he could manage before shrugging his shoulders and agreeing that, hey, walking two itty bitty zooming dogs in sub zero with the wind chill factor was JUST the thing for a father daughter bonding moment.

George was excited. Gracie was a blur.

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For the record, I've had better ideas than this one.

It was unbelievably cold coming back. It was so cold even Dad ran to keep warm when we walked back from the corner of Lincolin Hills Drive (yeah, you read that right, we spell Lincoln with TWO i's in Indiana). I don't recall seeing Dad run in my adult life. I shall cherish this memory.

Just as soon as my nose thaws.

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First two of five: out to Indiana

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Today begins my two week journey to parts old, new and old again. Since Southwest doesn't have any convenient non-stop flights to Chicago from AEFM (airport easy for me, read: flights after 9:00 am), I decided to start my day with a flight through Phoenix and fly "home" with Mom, eke out those last three hours in her Visit.

We successfully managed to suck at taking a self potrait of ourselves.

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Mom and I hopped off the plane and wandered over to the gate of my next flight. We squeezed in another 15 minutes of girl-time together before my flight boarded. Since I'll be taking five flights over the next two weeks, with a total of 23 hours in the air, I brought along about 6" of magazines, three books (two of which Kris hasn't read so that he, too, can read them when I'm done with them), and two books on my iPod, including the Brothers Karamazov.

I hope to be all set for entertainment. We'll see.

Dad picked me up from the airport. To my surprise, and I think his, we beat our previous record of "arrival to complete annoyance" time, and set a spectacular new record: 15 minutes. We were arguing about banning smoking, with his logic making no sense (I later figured out he was using the guilt by association logic error), and I grew more and more and more frustrated, until I just lost it.

I threw a complete hissy fit and offered to just fly back home, since this trip was going to be full of arguments and I wanted to be with him, not spend the whole visit annoyed and pissed off at him.

I hadn't realized that I hadn't lost my hissy-fit touch. It's been so long since I threw one. Usually I just simmer. This one? Oh, this one was amazing. It was a fit of glory. It was so bad that people 40-50 meters away were shying away from my screaming onslaught. Dad seemed to curl in to himself.

When I was done, I have to say, my embarrassment ranked up in the top 10 worst moments of my life. I didn't need to lay into my dad that way. I spent the drive home apologizing.

We stayed away from politics for the ride home.

George and the newest addition to the family, Gracie, greeted us at the door. Nothing like the joy of two little dogs to put some happiness back into an arrival.

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Loss

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I talked to Dad today. If nothing else, I have to say that buying that house in Indiana was worth the expense in the increased amount of time I've spent with Dad. I can't imagine any other reason I would have for heading back to Indiana every other month or so. That sounds bad. I like visiting him, I like when he visits me, but neither of us seem to find the time. The house has motivated me to visit frequently, which makes the house the bonus part of seeing Dad.

During our conversation, Dad commented on some event that happened a long while ago, then referenced it a watershed moment in his life: when his father died. He mentioned it casually, but it broke the flow of the conversation for me.

I've been having dreams of loss frequently as of late. In the first one I had, Dad had died. I had cried the inconsolable, sobbing wracks of loss in my dream, with whole body shakes. I recall Kris trying to console me, and being completely unable to do so. I woke up crying. Only a call to Dad later that day alleviated my sorrow.

The next up to die in my dreams was Kris. That one resulted in a waking cry fest so bad that even Kris, fully alive, warm and next to me in bed, had troubles calming me.

I've had other dreams of loss since, but none as bad as those first two. Sure, the dogs died one at a time, but that's a mixed blessing sometimes.

So, when Dad mentioned his dad dying, an event had happened fifteen years ago, the memories of loss from these dreams overwhelmed me. I changed the subject quickly and asked just how he made it through the death of his dad, because I'm fairly sure his death is going to crush me, as would Mom's death or Chris' or BJ's or Kris'. Sure, Dad's had time to recover/heal from his dad's death, but making it past the point where one can start to heal, I'm not sure I can make it that far.

Dad told me that, you know what, he's had a good life. That he'd rather I celebrated his life when he was gone, rather than mourn its loss. That he'd rather I remember him happy instead of remembering him through the pain of loss.

I promised to do my best, but that, yeah, it's still going to hurt like hell.

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