By Susan Govern
They say any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad. I am inclined to agree with that. I believe it takes someone who is willing to be strong; a real hero to his children, but who knows how to show a soft and gentle side too. That was my dad. He was strong in so many ways, except for his health which through the years seemed like a roller coaster ride, and he also showed a compassionate side.
Dad has been gone since December of 2008. We lost him Christmas Eve. That’s not entirely correct. He suffered a heart attack on Christmas Eve but managed to stay alive in the CCU until the morning of Dec. 26. He was never awake from the time the heart attack hit – but I believe he knew we were with him and could hear us. Some would say this was so very tragic, to have a loved one die at the holidays. Yes, but as hard as it was, we all got through it and even managed to do so with humor (which was based on sharing silly memories of him).
Those funny memories that pulled us through the days of his passing were a blessing. I like to think that dad was listening in from Heaven and shaking his head as he laughed right along with us and probably thinking “Oh boy, here they go again – bringing up that old story.” And there are plenty of them to keep us laughing even now.
Early on my dad showed his courage by dealing with his up and down health issues. He never made mom and me feel we needed to seriously worry about anything that was going on with him. It was just a bump along the road and we’d get through it; which we did.
Humor even played a part in some of those times. Like when dad was about to have an operation and while he was drugged up before surgery, he called my mom over to his bedside and told her, “Save your nickels and when it’s our 25th (anniversary) we’ll go to Hawaii.” The next day we asked him about that and we weren’t surprised he didn’t remember. We joked around that he probably meant we could save the nickels, melt them down and make the airplane to fly there. From then on it was a family joke to “save your nickels” whenever we mentioned taking a far away trip where you would need to fly to get there.
We also laughed, and still do, about dad’s own language. I believe it was a case of his mind getting ahead of his mouth that caused some of his words to get mixed up. Our favorite one was when we were traveling back from the ocean with them and we stopped at a highway rest plaza.
After waiting in a fairly long line for our sandwiches we headed to the tables, looking for one to fit six of us. My dad spotted one and told my kids to go grab the table under the umbrella. We all looked at dad and then he repeated it while pointing toward the table. As we sat down we looked up. The table was inside so there was no umbrella, but there was a ceiling fan. Even now if we are in a restaurant with a ceiling fan we say we’re sitting under the umbrella and we smile.
A restaurant was involved in yet another language oops my dad made. We liked going to dinners out with my parents and have several nice ones around us. One we liked to visit is Ruby Tuesday. For some reason my dad could never get the name right. So whenever we asked where they would like to go, and dad would answer “Ruby Lips” – well, we all knew where he meant.
To this day, I cannot pass one of those restaurants without thinking of it as “Ruby Lips”. Thanks dad.
Other words seemed to give him trouble from time to time. It could be the name of a person, place or thing and he might just flip-flop it or re-name it completely but those word goofs became a lovable part of who he was and the memories we have of him.
Dad may be gone, but he most certainly is not forgotten. The lessons I learned from him include how to swim, ride a bike, swing a baseball bat, drive a car, and how to have Faith in God. He also taught me by example how to be strong in tough times, how to enjoy being part of a family and how to let laughter into my life.
It is indeed true that any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad – and mine sure was special in all the ways that matter.