Monday, April 4, 2011

Here's to Life

My dad passed away in April 2006, of leukemia. There is enough to write about my dad and me to fill a book, so I won't go into it in depth, but let's just say we didn't have the best relationship at times. My dad was an alcoholic my entire childhood, and although he eventually stopped drinking, he still had demons that interfered with his relationships with his family.

He wasn't perfect, certainly. He could have been a better father; gentler, less quick to anger, more unconditional with his love.  As his adult daughter, though, I was able to see Dad's sense of humor, and if I ever needed help with something, he was willing to offer a little elbow grease.  He was a very hard worker.  He liked to build bird houses and squirrel feeders. He just didn't like to show vulnerability, and for some reason, he had a hard time seeing the goodness in some of his children (or at least letting them know that he did).

It was interesting, as his offspring, to see that many people knew another side of my dad. When my cousin Jeanie paid her condolences via email, for example, I was happy to see that Dad's best characteristics were evident to others.

[I have to preface this to say that Jeanie was one of eight girls in a family of 10 children. To this day, I have difficulty keeping some of their names straight, as nine of them are older than I am.]

When I think of memories of your Dad..........
I remember being impressed firstly as a small child, when this Uncle remembered us kids enough to bring back chips and candy bars from the beer run to the local tavern.

And then, when this same Uncle remembered not only our correct names, but would ask with that big smile, "And how's Jeanie doing?" ...and would take the time to listen to this teenager's response.

And again, at the last family reunion in Door County... talking to me as an equal, with a sincere wisdom and acceptance.   We were sitting on the lawn, and of course Aunt Elsie was by his side. 

I remember seeing a photograph from years back...of a young handsome couple on a picnic blanket on a lawn, looking like movie stars and wearing an obvious look of love for each other.

And out of that union came a big beautiful family of nine children.  In big families, there is a lot of learning and lessons and memories, and as we get older, it seems we all have our own special memories and spin on them, too.  I think it best to choose to remember the memories that leave you with that same big smile.

One more amazing I was just on the phone proof-reading this with sister Margaret in Minnesota, she was out walking, and as she passed the church, the bells started ringing....

and the song.......of course.....was Amazing Grace!

Love to you all, Jeanie

I guess what it boils down to is that when people close to us pass away, we often mourn what we didn't have with them. In Dad's case, it was healing to hear that even if I didn't always have my dad's affection, someone did.

It was my role in the funeral to choose the music. I never remembered Dad enjoying music, except maybe Lawrence Welk show? so I knew it was really for the rest of us. My cousin Jeanie had recorded a song not too long previously, and I thought it was kind of nice, so I chose it for the procession out of the church, after the service. In my state of grief, I really hadn't put a lot of thought into the choice, but as the strains of Jeanie's voice rang through the church, it made an impression--everyone loved it. Today, listening to the song, I got a little choked up, but again I realized what a great song it would be for so many others; it beautifully fits the life philosophy of many people we know.

Note: This video is not really visually appealing (except that it shows sweet Jeanie and her friend); it's just some pics thrown together by a friend who wanted a background for the song. I recommend, instead, that you turn off your monitor and just listen to it (or put a favorite photo of your own on your monitor); the quality of the sound is excellent.

Here's to life, and here's to today. Have a good one.


  1. My Dad died suddenly in April 2003. We had our ups and downs too. Thanks for writing this.

  2. If you do ever write a book about you and your dad like I did about mine and me, I would be one of the first to read it!

  3. Hey Mrs. 4444

    I'm right there with you. So is Ms. Moon. It's a comfort.
    (your post and the not-alone-ness)


  4. For some people it's easy to find the good in other's when they are not living in it. I think everyone has some good in them it just hurts to see it. All families are interesting to say the least but big families are something Mom is one of 10 and her stories make me sad but she is who she is today because of them. Stronger and wise.
    Have a wonderful Monday! ((Hugs))

  5. I didn't have my dad growing up and I know of him now but we don't have a relationship. I always think about when he will pass, what I will feel and if I will regret, does he? it is painful even all the years later and me being 38...a girl needs her daddy.

  6. I never knew my Dad as he died when I was only 17 days old. My Mom passed away 31 years ago. A cousin of mine -who is the same age as me and we grew up close, drifted apart for several years but thanks to the internet, have come back to the old closeness we held as kids and he and I have often had chats online about our parents and their methods of parenting. (His Dad and my Mom were siblings.) We both felt our parents rarely showed affection and as children, we felt they were a bit unloving but as adults, we've come to the conclusion that this was pretty much how they were raised and so the pattern continued to us. Both of us have made a few changes though in our methods over those of our parents -trying to be more demonstrative to our children with lots more hugs, kisses and especially words to show we cared, deeply, for our own. (With grandchildren though, it seems to pour forth with great ease -and that, I'm really happy to say!) With age, my cousin and I have finally realized that deep down inside, our parents did really love us though after all.

  7. I'm so sorry. I have been off the radar for so long that I didn't realize that your Dad died.

    I can only imagine the well of emotions that must be gushing through you right now.

    Know that I am hear, if that well needs a place to flow.

    I love you, my friend.

  8. Although my dad is still alive, your post hits home with me. He was not an affectionate man, and his way of showing love was not very evident when I was growing up. He didn't foster a close bond with me, and pleasing him was difficult, to say the least. Anything I did was never quite good enough for his standards. I can't ever remember getting a hug from him, yet somehow I knew he loved me. And although that was the side of him I knew, family and friends around us knew him as a different person. To others, he was a friendly and helpful guy who was great to be around. For me, being around him meant walking on eggshells for fear of doing something wrong and ticking him off. And yet despite all this, as an adult we are now very close.

    As Jeanie said, "I think it best to choose to remember the memories that leave you with that same big smile". For all his faults (at least as I saw it), I can't help but smile at the good qualities he had and instilled in me. The older I get, the more of his good side I see in me.

  9. As you know about my love/hate relationship with my dad, I was fortunate to see and experience the fun side of him.

    Dad passed in October and my emotions are still a bit raw at times. This song was just perfect and what a wonderful voice. It will be a long time before I can write about the other side of Dad.

    God bless and have a good day sweetie.

  10. Thanks so much for posting that note from cousin Jeannie. It is great to know about the effect he had on others. I always love her singing too...
    Since I am so old, if you ever need to know the names of the older cousins I can help, ha ha! I am probably # 5 in the list of all 50 cousins total on both sides if you count those that passed on. :0 Thanks!

  11. If only all men who become fathers would know how much their love and encouragement is important to their children's ability to be healthy.
    You are a forgiving and open woman, daughter, wife, mother. The song in the video is beautiful.

  12. This post got me thinking about my folks, who showed lots of affection to each other, but weren't the type to hug their kids all the time. I think it was a different time for one thing, and there was the curse of being Scandanavian, too. Cold people in some ways. In spite of all that we never doubted that we were loved. It's amazing.

  13. You are a good person, and I am sure some of that goodness came from your dad. Even with his flaws.

  14. very thought provoking post. No matter how much time passes we keep the memories of those in our lives alive. I find it odd how those memories get triggered.
    That is a beautiful song and if you didn't know the song has many covers on youtube.
    I thought this one was especially mellow and nice.
    all the best.

  15. Great post. It's always interesting to discover different perspectives, isn't it?

    Jeanie has a beautiful voice!

  16. Nice tribute, sis!
    The other day I was thinking about the day dad described me as "all business". That struck me as rather odd,as (correct me if I am wrong) none of my siblings or friends would describe me that way.
    Apparently, I did not show my softer side to him as much as I do to others.
    You took that opportunity much more often, but then that was always your gift.
    I do remember also, dad's soft spot for the Carlin girls. He had genuine affection for them when he spoke of them. Perhaps their sweetness reminded him of his farm girl, Elsie.
    Of the sorrows I shared for our father, one of the greatest was that he never truly "saw inside us" and was able to fully appreciate the awesome qualities in his children.
    Like you said, his own troubles seemed to be all consuming.
    I fully trust that where he is now, his spirit is uninhibited and we can someday anticipate a joyous homecoming, with him at the lead!
    Thanks for the uplifting tribute!

  17. What a beautiful, heartfelt, raw post. Thank you for sharing!

  18. You are right, this is a peice of your heart, and a wonderful sifting of things... thanks for posting

  19. A wonderful post and I can relate to this but I have such a hard time talking about daddy ...My father passed may 26,2006 after years of demons ...drugs...and he was eventually finished off by emphazema and hep c from the hard life he was living... but he was not always that way... he was my dad ... bless you for putting it out there

  20. I think it's a huge step to be able to see it the way you are choosing to see it. I'm not sure I could be so gracious because I think I'd be stuck on why I didn't get the best parts of that person. I totally admire your perspective and understanding and attitude.


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