My father’s eyes were the most beautiful shade of pale blue, like azure crystals. I’ll never forget them. During the time my father had terminal cancer, he and I went for breakfast one morning when he was still able to get around. I remember sitting across the table from him engaged in conversation, and as I looked at him, the thought came to me, “Remember those beautiful eyes. Never forget how full of life they are and how they sparkle. Never forget.”
Some time in the late 1970’s, myself, my dad, Emil and my mom, Annie
It’s been 30 years since I last saw my father. He was a short, handsome guy who was partially bald. He was the most fantastic man. Everyone loved him and he had many friends. He could fix anything, and he loved to garden and bake. We lived in Chicago, and the little garden plot next to our house was always abloom with color bursting from the rows and rows of dahlias and gladiolas he grew. My dad was always anxious for the gladiolas to open up because they were his favorite. Gladiolas were his August birthday flower and as soon as they were ready, he’d cut a bundle of them and proudly display them in a vase in the middle of our kitchen table. He always grew a large vegetable garden every year and I still remember all summer long the tasty bundles of leaf lettuce, onions and juicy tomatoes we’d pick just before eating our sandwiches. My father was Bohemian and knew how to bake all kinds of delicious goodies. My favorite was baked Houska (sweet braided bread with raisins), and it was so good it even topped the loaves you could buy at the corner bakery. And when I was small, he always made me my own little loaf in a little, mini pan. Love.
My father adored me. I was the proverbial ‘daddy’s girl.’ We got along great, but there were times when he was moody. For instance, I could tell how the day was going to go depending on the tone he used to say “good morning” when I ran into him in the kitchen. And when I’d help him work on small odd jobs he always managed to lose his temper because I inadvertently didn’t do something right and he’d lose patience with me. Funny, but now that I look back at those times I have to smile because I was kind of dopey!
My father taught me so much when I was a child, but one of the things about him I remember the most is the relationship he had with other people. It seemed that everyone loved him. He was funny and generous and good hearted. He was a great neighbor and on the job he was loyal to his peers and as a Union Steward, an advocate to his fellow factory workers. He always taught me to treat my guests like gold, and was a living example to me on how to be a good friend.
What I do know more than anything is that he loved me unconditionally. And for that, I’ll be forever grateful. I don’t think I’d be the person I am today if I didn’t grow up with his love and encouragement. One thing I didn’t think would ever happen is that I’d lose him. As a little girl, I remember imagining what would happen if he died and I’d be gripped by the horrible feeling of how unbearable life would be without him. He was a two pack a day smoker and I was always afraid the cigarettes would make him sick, I had a gut feeling he was the one, not my mom, who would suffer from the affects of smoking. It turns out my intuition was spot on. He began to get the symptoms of lung cancer during my senior year of high school. He got sicker and sicker until he lost his battle at the very young age of 52. And just as I had predicted, life was unbearable without him for a very long time.
There isn’t a day that has gone by since July 24th, 1982 that I don’t think of him. I was 18 when he died, and now, even though I’m now 50, there are still times when I’m sad and deeply wish he was here with me. I still need him when times get tough, or when I need some advice only he could give. I wish he were here to hug my children and witness them growing up and see all I’ve accomplished in this life. I would have loved if he had the chance to have a meaningful relationship with my husband, and it would have been so cool if we were given the chance to watch each other grow older. How I would have loved more than anything to have him here with me through the past 30 years.
To Dad- where ever you might be, I hope you still feel the warmth of the sunshine and are held close to God. I know He’s got you right there with him-I pray He takes good care of you. I miss you more than you can imagine I will never forget you and I love you more than a thousand sunsets-even still. —Emmy