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Today, October 21st, I celebrate my wedding anniversary with one of my two favorite men on earth, my husband Geoff.
Today, October 21st, I say goodbye to my other favorite guy: my Dad.
The term “bittersweet” doesn’t even begin to cover this coincidence, but I suppose it’s a start.
I believe that one of the greatest gifts we are given as human beings is the ability to choose how we view and react to situations beyond our control. In this case, I could choose to be angry and upset, and I’m certain no one would fault me for that reaction. Hell, if we’re being honest, I am angry. I’m angry that my father was taken from us so unexpectedly. I’m angry that he was taken from us far too soon. I’m angry at the prospect of spending more than half of my life without my Dad here, to call for advice when my car starts making funny noises, to watch my kids graduate from high school, the kind of things you just expect your dad to be around for.
Or I could choose to see the coincidence of one of the happiest days of my life and one of the saddest days of my life landing on the exact same date as more than just a coincidence.
I could choose to see this as a reminder that life is so precious and wonderful, and never promised or infinite. That even the best things in life will one day come to an end, so the most important thing we can do is to truly enjoy them while we have them. To live in the moment, love unapologetically every chance we get, hold our heads high through the tough times, and laugh as often as possible.
I know without a doubt that my Dad would want me to choose the latter, so that’s what I’m going to do.
And so today instead of mourning the death of my father, we celebrate the life he so loved instead. While my dad wasn’t a crazy ultra runner like his middle daughter, it was no doubt his influence that instilled the sense of adventure and love for the outdoors that I relentlessly pursue every single day. It was his influence that taught me when you love something, you go 100% in. Whether that means running ALL of the miles, or collecting ALL of the trains, you unapologetically give it everything you have.
Dad’s work hard, play harder attitude taught me from a very young age that the world was full of endless fun to be had, especially to those who had a hard working ethic and the heart to pursue what they truly wanted out of life. Rarely did a weekend or day off go by without Dad taking his girls camping, fishing, canoeing, or on road trips to antique shops all over the beautiful back roads of New England. In more recent years, mom and dad spent all of their free time in the pit crew of various race car teams, at model railroad train shows, or on the beaches of Cape Cod.
And Dad’s lead by example method didn’t work, the various bumper stickers of his left around the house such as “a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work” or “if it’s not fun, why do it?” did the trick.
My dad may be gone from the physical world, but I have no doubt that he is still with me, with all of us.
Dad will be with me every time I successfully put up a tent by myself, even if it takes three tries to get the poles to line up the right way.
He’ll be with me every time I accidentally navigate a canoe straight into a dock, log, or other obstacle that I didn’t see coming.
Dad will be with me every time I see a gold finch or an indigo bunting at the bird feeder. And for Dad, I’ll be sure to yell at the squirrels also at the bird feeder, because that’s what he would have wanted. For as long as I can remember, he was always engaged in a personal war with those silly squirrels.
He’ll be with me every time I spend hours trying to untangle the Christmas lights before putting them on the tree, even though I know for a fact that I put them away neatly the year before.
Speaking of Christmas, he’ll be with me every time the song “God Rest Ye’ Merry Gentlemen” comes on and I sing, without skipping a beat “The Restroom Door Said Gentlemen” instead, one of his favorite Christmas carol parodies.
Dad will be with me every time I eat a cheese doodle or hostess cupcake, and insist to whomever is with me that these are definitely their own major food groups.
He’ll be there every time I’m tempted to turn up the thermostat before putting on a sweater first, and I’ll hear his voice scolding “money doesn’t grow on trees!” in my head.
And while we’re on the topic of Dad’s sayings, I’ll always remember to shut the front door, because apparently I wasn’t born in a barn.
Dad will be at the start of every race, every job interview, every big competition, repeating in my head “never let them tell you that you can’t do something just because you’re a girl.”
He’ll be with me in every sunset over the Atlantic, every train that passes, every Jimmy Buffett song that comes on the radio, every inappropriate and obnoxious joke I make, the kind that would make my mom roll her eyes and say “Richard!”, equal parts annoyed and trying not to crack a smile.
Because of the endless life lessons, wisdom, and strength to tackle the world that my dad instilled, he will never not be with me.
Back in the early 90’s the Disney movie Aladdin came out, and my little sister Cathy incessantly watched the VHS on repeat. My dad quickly took to one specific catch phrase at the end of the movie and would throw it into casual conversation every chance he could. I like to think if he could say one last thing to us today, he’d turn with that mischievous smile on his face, and joking say in the words of the Genie:
“Well I can’t do any more damage around this Popsicle stand, I’m outta here!”