A Day That Snuck Up

My father and I in the Adirondack Mountains. My favorite picture of us.

With the prolonged winter weather, plumbing issues, and car trouble I’ve experienced this year, I’ve often lost track of days as I work through it all. The late arrival of spring has me thinking it’s still April some days and therefore I was surprised to realize that one day in particular snuck up on me unawares: today, my father’s birthday.

As my mother said incredulously yesterday, my father would’ve turned 77 this year. That’s mind boggling to me because in my mind, my parents don’t really age. My father left this world when he was 68. His health had deteriorated in the last years of his life. But fortunately with the passage of time, I usually remember him as the healthy, fit man he was in his 50s. That really is a blessing and something I’m certain makes his spirit happy.

In past years I’ve felt sorrow in the days leading up to his birthday and on his birthday, but not this year. Admittedly, I’ve been stressed about getting my car’s transmission fixed, dealing with yard work, and so on, but even without those things, I don’t think I would’ve felt sad.

I miss my father every single day and I wish he was still here to help me with so many things, but overall I feel like I’m in a good place in my life. I’m content and happy and don’t feel as lost as I used to. I believe I owe that in large part to everything I inherited from my father. He taught me to always see the bright side of life, to look at things from different angles, and to appreciate all the blessings I have.

Life isn’t always easy, but it’s always a gift. So while I no longer have my father here to give gifts to on his birthday, he continues to give me the greatest gifts of love, strength, faith, gratitude, acceptance, and determination.

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What the heart wants

My Dad cooking in the kitchen of my childhood home.

My Dad cooking in the kitchen of my childhood home.

This afternoon when I woke up from my nap and was snuggling with Angel before finding the strength to get up, I realized exactly what I wanted to make me feel better. I wanted my father to make me my favorite comfort meal of mashed potatoes and chicken and then sit down and talk to me about anything. I miss the sound of his voice and I miss hearing about everything he knew in that amazing mind of his. I wouldn’t care if he talked about wars, trains, planes, or the origins of math, I just wanted his company. Alas, what the heart wants isn’t always possible.

My pup and the kittens have been doing their best to look after me but snuggles and shadowing aren’t the same as making me chicken soup or getting me fresh water. I’ve heard that knowing exactly what you want is the first step toward getting it but that doesn’t work in the case of wanting my father and I know that. I like to imagine that there’s at least one guy out there who would be willing to take care of me like my dad did, but perhaps that’s a fantasy. Maybe what I’m looking for only exists between daddies and daughters and men my age are all like my ex: babies when they’re sick and in need of my TLC but unable/unwilling to take care of me when I feel unwell. Perhaps when a once-beautiful chick with a healthy flush in her cheeks and pep in her spirit turns pale, tired, and slightly whiny, she loses all her appeal. Perhaps the whole idea of being with someone through thick and thin is just a fantasy these days or something that just doesn’t apply to me.

I admit, being sick brings out the “wuss” in me and I long for what I don’t have. Even sick I’m capable of taking care of myself, but it would be nice to have someone to help me when I don’t feel good. To acquire at least some of what I really wanted today, I went out, bought a little rotisserie chicken, then came home, and made Potato Buds like my dad used to do. Well, kind of like my dad used to do. In my semi foggy state I misread the directions and added more milk than I was supposed to, but they turned out edible eventually. I then cut some breast meat and a drumstick from the chicken, spooned some mashed potatoes onto my plate, poured myself a glass of eggnog, and settled in the living room to watch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation while I ate.

Like the “superwoman” I am I did all my freelance work today despite feeling tired, sore, and foggy. I won’t be walking Jazzmin daily again until I feel better because my body obviously needs and wants rest. Thankfully, Jazz doesn’t have a great concept of time so as far as she knows it could have been 30 seconds or 30 years since our last walk. We’ll get back out there eventually and I’ll find my stride again, but for now, I’m snuggling with my furbabies on the couch watching The Nine Lives of Christmas on Hallmark Channel. I’ve seen it three times now but it has the cute guy who played Superman in one of the more recent remakes and it’s about how he falls for a chick kind of like me with no life, a cat, and a love for large quantities of ice cream. Even if such things only happen in movies, it’s nice that a hopeless romantic like me still appreciates the notion.

kitten in bed

Angel wasn’t eager to get out bed today.

Bobcat, Teddy Bear, Penguin Collector

My father and I in the Adirondack Mountains. He's wearing the bobcat shirt I remember well.

My father and I in the Adirondack Mountains. He’s wearing the bobcat shirt I remember well.

My father’s name was Robert W. Corbin but most people called him Bob. He was a great man, inspiring role model, and the last gentleman I knew. After high school, he went into the Air Force where he worked on the inner workings of large cargo planes. He worked at Xerox for almost 32 years as an electrical engineer and he earned several patents for his designs that improved various copier mechanisms. Before his first stroke, my father was an active member of Toastmasters, rode horses with me, gave blood whenever possible, and volunteered where he could.

Today is the five-year anniversary of my father’s passing. Even though the pain of losing him has lessened over the years, there will always be a spot in my heart that feels empty without him. I don’t wish the loss of a parent or close family member upon anyone, for it’s an anguish that is only understood by those who have endured it. I describe losing my father as a hole in my heart, a void in my soul, an area within me so hollow I swear I can feel the wind blow through it.

Visiting my father's grave in 2012.

Visiting my father’s grave in 2012.

However, my father would never want me to dwell in the pain of losing him, of that I am certain. His spirit wants me to remember how amazing his life was, how many blessings he had, and how fortunate I was to have him as my father. I don’t quite know why, but when I conjure images of my father, I see him wearing jeans and a shirt he had with the face of a bobcat on it. The bobcat was because so many people called him Bob but as I think of the face of that cat with its stripes and whiskers, I am reminded of my father.

To me, my father was a big teddy bear. Always there for a bearhug, understanding ear and a bit of loving gruffness when it was required. He even used to scratch his back against walls like bears scratch their backs against trees. Despite his softness, he wasn’t a pushover, and he showed me what true strength of character and a good heart look like in a person.

Riding on my father's shoulders. One of the best ways to travel!

Riding on my father’s shoulders. One of the best ways to travel!

My mother loves to tell the story of how my father was trying to get a closer look at penguins at a zoo and ended up bonking his head on the curved glass. From that day on, he received penguins as gifts and had quite a collection that my girls have now inherited a majority of. Whenever I see penguins now with their adorable waddles on land and stunning grace under water, I think of my father. I also think of him whenever my daughters or I bonk our heads on glass either from lack of grace or from wanting to see something closer…

With each passing year, I realize how much I am like my father. I inherited his strength, determination, and stubbornness. He showed me what a good man looks like and I will never again allow myself to settle for anything less than a good-hearted, honest, caring, hug-giving gentleman. My father raised his only daughter to be intelligent, clever, loving, and kind and I know he’s proud of all that I’ve accomplished. He has the right one picked out for daddy’s little girl but I’m not putting my life on hold for that. I continue to live my amazingly blessed and happy life, certain that the right one will be able to catch up to me and add his story to my own.