One of my favorite toys growing up was my Easy Bake Oven. Who would have ever thought some delicious little baked goods could come from some simple batter and the heat of a light bulb?? I loved that oven! And it was my dad who would be the one to play with it with me. Saturday afternoons, after all the chores and errands were done, Dad would set up my oven on the kitchen table and the two of us would bake cakes and talk about silly things.
I remember the day Dad showed me how to use a real oven. Our toaster oven. He made me my first bagel. It was an onion bagel with cream cheese slathered all over it. I have no idea why that first bagel is so vivid in my memory, but I swear every time I rpepare a bagel of my own today, that memory is right in the forefront of my mind.
Looking back, Dad was my playmate quite a bit on the weekends. That was rather unusual for dads “back in the day”. They weren’t as involved with their kids as they are today. When I was growing up, dads were the main bread winners of the family and the ones who did all the household repairs and took care of the cars on the weekends.
My dad was different. I have so many great memories of flying kites in the abbey field that was close to our home, hiking to a nearby pond to skip rocks and look for fish, being pushed on the tire swing he so lovingly and carefully hung in one of our trees, and squirting each other with the hose as we washed his old LTD car on Saturday mornings. On rainy days, Dad would bring me down to his workshop in the basement and teach me how to carve wood or make little leather pouches that he always filled with spare change. We would ride to the local drug store and he would let me spend that change on candy. And the days we couldn’t get to the drug store, he always had a drawer in his bedroom that he kept stocked with my favorite Lifesavers or Charms candies and we would play Store. He was the cashier and I was the shopper and I would learn about money buying candy from him.
Sundays were pretty routine in our home also. Dad and I would get up early and go to the 7:00 Mass together. Then while my mom and other siblings were at a later service, Dad and I would make Sunday breakfast. He had some pretty amazing scrambled eggs. My oldest brother makes them the same way Dad used to and whenever I go to visit him, he makes those eggs and it brings back so many memories.
After breakfast, we would either go visit Grandmom or gather in the living room to read the Sunday paper. All the kids would fight over the comics and puzzle pages and Mom and Dad would exchange the other sections with each other and then everyone would settle into their favorite spots and take a nap. Sunday afternoons we would watch movies and if we were lucky, Dad would let us get McDonalds or hoagies from the local sub shop for dinner. Then Sunday nights, he would put some records on the record player and he and I would dance around the living room, with me riding along ever so smoothly on his feet.
Bath time on Sunday nights was always with Dad too. He would get the kids cleaned up and send us off to Mom to get our hair combed and teeth brushed while he went and took his shower. I so clearly remember the smell of Old Spice when he entered the room. He had a receding hairline, silver in color and slicked back away from his face. I would crawl up in his lap and we would watch a show together or he would read me a story. Then it was off to bed and he would sit for hours if he had to and rub my back until I fell asleep.
Things changed drastically as I got older and our relationship changed dramatically. What I didn’t understand or realize, was how sick Dad was at the time. I just witnessed how grumpy he was all the time. He preferred to be by himself and everything made him angry. Our relationship was very broken by the time he passed and I was incredibly angry with him.
It took me years to fully understand what was happening with Dad at the time. I learned to forgive him and I am ever so grateful that when I think of my dad today, it is those memories mentioned above that come flooding into my mind and not the awful ones of his last months and days on earth.
My dad taught me so many things growing up. He was always patient with me and if he did get angry when I was young, he would find a special way to make it right and the two of us would be off laughing and playing again. I suppose that’s why when I got older, I had such a hard time understanding his anger and his harsh personality.
The last lesson Dad taught me was forgiveness. True hardcore forgiveness. How to reach deep down in my heart and understand that sometimes people make big mistakes. Sometimes people are not truly in control of their emotions. Sometimes we just have to be the person to try to understand the other side of the story and know that we are all doing the best we can with what we know at the time.
My dad has been gone from this earth for 27 years now. I miss him every day but I’ve had signs from him, letting me know he is right beside me on this journey we call life. Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I’m going to visit your two great grandchildren, who were both born this year, and if I’m lucky, Jack will make me some of those special scrambled eggs and we’ll raise a cup of coffee together and remember the good ole days, filled with lots of love and laughter.