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Friday, November 11, 2011

[1166] dad


On the 1,144th day of the rest of my life, I lost one of my best friends in the whole, wide world--my dad.


Today would've been his 61st birthday. It was a birthday he looked forward to his entire life. Not because 61 is a particularly interesting age (besides, since two years ago he proclaimed that he was skipping age 59, it would have been his 62nd by his count), but because it's 11/11/11, and that's just "too cool." I remember him explaining Armistice Day to me when I was just a wee one. He was so proud of his birthday, and being born at the halfway point of the century. 1950. That he missed that birthday by just a few weeks frankly ticks me off. It just figures. Sometimes I feel like my dad was Charlie Brown. He just could never kick the football.

Had it been within my dad's power, he would never have left my side. He wouldn't have left any of our sides. He was the third base coach for my softball team, he helped me with my homework, I sat in his lap while he watched the nightly news; when we moved to California, I'd still call him to help me with those pesky math problems. When I was in college, he'd drive out to see me every Thursday, often bringing a bag of oranges from his backyard for my roommates, whom he'd always say "charmed the socks right off" him. Dad wanted nothing more in life than to settle down in New England and to know that his kids were thriving. He kept very little. Amongst his few material possessions were stacks and stacks of photos of us; heaps of letters, cards, and valentines we'd made him years and years ago.

Just over a month ago I was holding his hand in the hospital, telling him that when he got better, Kyo and I would come to visit him. He couldn't speak, but he hummed his approval and got wide-eyed and excited at the mention of Kyo's name. Man, he loved my husband. At the end of all of our phone conversations, he would tell me a joke, then insist that I run and tell it to Kyo immediately. I think he knew that I did not inherit his joke-telling skills, and hoped that repeating it right away would keep me from butchering it. It usually didn't. I seriously can't tell a joke. Remind me some time, though, to tell you the one about the "P." My dad would be proud and appalled that this is the joke I've retained throughout the years.

My dad was one of the smartest people I've ever met. He was a teacher through and through. He's a large part of the reason I was using words like "inquisitive" and "ambidextrous" by the time I reached the first grade. He co-founded The Literacy Project, which has helped thousands of adults learn to read. That anyone should be denied the pleasure of a good book or the dignity of accomplishing every day tasks without asking for help was an absolute travesty to Jimmy Vaughan.

When I first arrived in Massachusetts last month, Dadoo had improved quite a bit. He was talking a little, although his memory wasn't so great. He couldn't remember my name, but when the nurse asked him who I was, he responded, "That's my pretty little girl." When people would tell my dad that I looked like him, he would always respond, "Sure. Except for all the pretty." He was full of his own little words and phrases: Sheesh canoliburgers, Corrigan McSnortenheimer, Rudy Kazoodie, and my personal favorite, at the beginnings of bedtime stories, Are you all sitty comfy two square on your bums? Then let's begin. Once a polly tie tow...

There's a lot I could say about my dad. I could write a book about why he was and always will be one of my favorite people who has ever walked the earth. I could talk at length about his warm hugs and the way I never to had ask for a back rub--I just had to sit in front of him and his response was automatic. I could expound upon the hundreds of hours we spent walking, whether to the park, to Super John's, or to a friend's house, and the fact that a walk was never just a walk, but a history lesson or a vocabulary lesson or a lesson in why we were lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the country.

I'll miss my dadoo. I'll miss calling him every time I get straight As or land an internship or achieve anything great. I know that for the rest of my life, I will hear his "I'll be darned," and his expressions of great pride whenever I succeed. I'll think of him after every Red Sox or Patriots win. Heck, I'll just think of him. And I know others will, too. My dad's fingerprints are on a lot of lives.

So if you have a story you want to tell me about my dad, go on ahead. Email me, comment, make me a video. I'd love to hear it.

And by the way, a blonde is walking down the street and sees another blonde across the way. "Hey! How do you get to the other side?" she yells. The other blonde yells back, "Duh, you're already on it!"

G'nite, Dadoo.