Saturday, July 30, 2011
37 years ago.
It seems like yesterday.
Thirty-seven years ago my dad finally succumbed to the cancer that had ravaged his body for the last few months. It was strange. We only found out that he was terminal in May. We had gone to Santa Barbara for a check-up and found out there that he may not even make it home. He had lung and brain cancer. He remained coherent almost to the end. A couple of days before he died he stopped recognizing family members but he still remembered me. I remember sitting holding his hand knowing that it wouldn't be long and I'd never see his face again.
I was a daddy's girl through and through.
I'd walk into a room and he'd sing, "there she is, Miss America." I grew up with a strong sense of self and belonging but when he died, I felt like an orphan. I got my first taste of mortality and I didn't respond well to it. I realized life and relationships aren't permanent and from then on I kept everyone at a distance to steel myself against further loss. It didn't help that my mother died three years later. It truly shaped the way I looked at life, family and friends.
From him I learned how to be tough and face any challenge. I learned never to knuckle under when you knew you were right. He was private, cerebral and I learned that you didn't talk about your business. I got his dry, snarky sense of humor and his quick decision making skills. I learned to take people at face value because sooner or later they will always show you their true self. He pushed me to be all that I could be which was funny because the only thing he wanted for me was to find a nice Jewish boy, settle down, get married and have babies.
But I was a wild child.
When I was turning sixteen, my dad got driving lessons for me and bought a beautiful yellow mustang and parked it in the driveway. Smart of him NOT to teach me how to drive. It would be a case of the immovable object meets the irresistible force. Anyway, once I got the car I learned how to drive VERY fast and I still think I was the first once that felt the need for speed. I'd scream up to the Four Queens and jump out and tell the valet to hold the car. Then I'd go in and in my sweetest, syrupy voice say, "Daddy, I need money." He'd look at me and then say, "how much do you need honey?" I'd run out the door and be on my way.
What I didn't realize at the time is that he personalized my license plates with "ROSE" so that he could keep tabs on me. Even when I went to school and he didn't have the local police department keeping an eye on me, I'd get busted. When I went to school I took a run up to San Francisco to a Stephen Stills concert. I started to go back stage and who do you think the security guard was? My cousin.
My dad knew before I hit the door.
So thirty-seven years later I still miss his counsel, advice and lecturing.
I guess you could say I still miss my dad.