A year and a half ago, my dad came to Los Angeles for work, and for a short visit. His visits never felt long enough, and if I got him for two nights (as I did on this particular August trip), I considered myself lucky.
My pre-teen self would have likely cringed at the thought of spending more time with Dad. He was always embarrassing my sister and me by doing things like actually talking to our friends, asking us questions about our lives, or picking us up at middle school dances—while wearing his weekend uniform of running tights—minus the shorts that were typically worn on top. He would feign ignorance at our horror, and laugh. He let it roll off his back and become one of the stories we told later that made us all smile.
I don’t know when the shift happened, but somewhere along the way it became a sort of bragging right: having a dad other people, and I, wanted to be around. And because I had him for two evenings on this summer trip, I was willing to share him for a night. My friends invited us to meet them at an outdoor park in Marina del Rey for a symphonic concert and picnic. We went, with wine and homemade kale chips and chocolate. My dad sat down next to me on the plaid blanket, batted his long, dark eyelashes and charmed everyone within minutes.
I asked him to try the kale chips; he gave me that squinty side-eyed, head-cocked look that he always gave me when I suggested something he was skeptical about. It was a look I had expected to receive when I broke the news that I was moving across the country, when I explained that I was quitting my job to travel, or when I told him that I wanted to write a book. But what materialized then instead was a hug, the kind that wrapped all the way around and enveloped me, and words I didn’t know I needed to hear: “Honey, I will always be proud of you.” I knew how deeply he meant it, how much he really wanted me to listen, when he put his hands on my shoulders and began with honey.
That night he bravely tasted a kale chip, which he washed down immediately with wine. “Not for him” was the verdict, as he reached for the cheese and crackers, and the dark chocolate chips. I couldn’t blame him, really. I inherited his sweet tooth along with his stubbornness, and his love for The Yankees and The Giants.
We watched the sun sink lower in the sky above the marina. The strings and the woodwind instruments accompanied the sailboats as they passed before us, backlit by fading golden rays of light. My picture of the sunset that night was captioned, “can it be summer forever?” I wish I had written what was even truer: “can this moment last just a little longer?”
I realized soon after, that the sunset, the symphony and I, had all lost my dad’s attention. He was captivated, enamored by a huge, fluffy ball of fur seated just behind him. The dog whisperer, I thought that night. He spent the majority of the next hour swapping puppy stories with the owners, and cuddling this giant dog. When he said goodbye to them in the parking lot later, it was with reluctance and covered in dog hair. He bonded quickly about dogs, about watches, about anything really. He so easily connected with other people, he could have led a master class in it, were it something that could be taught. My friends would text me later: “Your dad is so sweet! We love him.”
I try to encompass all the things he was, or even all of the things he was to me in limited space. I think about all of the skills he taught me: how to buy a watch, how to lease a car, how to talk to clients, how to stay calm in a small plane, how to navigate a roundabout from the left side of the road in Ireland. I endeavor to permanently imprint on my heart all of the lessons he revealed to me: how to be kind, how to forgive, how to make people smile, how to be more patient, how to love without holding back. I attempt to remember every detail: the cowlicks in his thick hair, the way he refused to wear socks with his boat shoes, the feel of his strong hand around mine, the closed smile he used for photos, and the real, eye-crinkling smile he shared in person, the smell of his skin, the precise shade of those beautiful blue eyes.
But the loss has muddled my thoughts, and blurred my memories.
Instead, my mind keeps returning to that August night in Marina del Rey: a blazing sun setting behind white sails, Sauvignon Blanc and Monterey Jack for dinner, Gershwin and sheepdogs to follow us into our dreams. And my heart remembers this one perfect night with the first man I ever loved, the one who kissed bruises and wiped away tears, the one who was always there to greet me with a hug, and give a ride home from Newark Airport, the one who made sure I knew how much he loved me every day of my life.
This loss feels like it is just mine, but of course it is shared in part by everyone who knew him, and even those who didn’t. When I left the hospital that final time, in grief’s haze, the waxing moon hung lower in the sky than I have ever seen it. To my swollen eyes, it looked heavy, like it was sinking, weighted down with our sorrow.
Or like someone in the sky figured out how to fly the moon at half-mast, to honor my dad.
so sorry for your loss, but what a wonderful legacy of Love! Thank you for sharing ❤
This is a beautiful tribute, Katie. Love to you.
What a beautiful eulogy! ❤
Oh Katie what a beautiful tribute to your dad. I feel like I knew him. My heart breaks for you and your loss. I am so glad that you have your memories of his wonderful smile and strength and all that he gave you. May they never fade and always be in your heart when you need them. Much love to you in this time of unspeakable grief and great sorrow. Please know that if you ever need anything I am here. Sometimes in the dark hours grief gets overwhelming. I am here. Love to you Mom-Barb.
You brought tears to my eyes with this. Please know I think of you all the time, and am so sorry for all of the loss that you have been through.
Beautiful words for a beautiful man and a beautiful bond. Xoxo
How wonderful to have those beautiful memories. I share your loss and send my sincere condolences to you and your entire family.
Katie – I have been thinking of you and your beautiful broken heart. I am sorry for your loss upon loss. My dad means the world to me, and I can’t imagine losing him. What beautiful words you have written for yours – thank you for sharing. Much love – Rachel
Katie- What a beautiful tribute to your father. May the tears heal you and may the memories comfort you. xoxo Patty
Beautiful, Katie. I’m so sorry for your loss and holding you in my thoughts.
Oh Katie, how wonderful these words describe the essence of your dad. I am so so sorry for all that you have been thru…..
Katie I’m so sorry for your loss. You’ve written a beautiful eulogy for your dad.
Katie…I only know you from your writings but my husband and I went to college with Jane and kevin. We are so sad for yor recent losses and hope you find peace and solace in your memories. Kevin was always such fun, just as you described him even in his college days. Please extend my wishes to your Mom also.
Geri and Jim Morganteen
Gorgeous and so full of love. Sending all the comfort of hug to you, Katie.
I know this pain all too well. People say it gets better with time, I think in a way it gets harder. My father passed away suddenly in December 2014. My sister and I are feeling robbed of time, craving more conversations, and feeling too young to know this kind of pain. I also know that there is little to ease the pain. However, I believe the pain is a direct correlation to the love you had for your father, you wouldn’t want it to hurt any less. Your words and photos are beautiful, and so is your relationship with your father. Carry him with you, find your strong, keep doing what makes you happy and what made your dad proud. ❤
"The most beautiful people I have known are those who have known trials, have known struggles, have known loss, and have found their way out of the depths." -Elizabeth Kubler Ross
Of all the things I have read that you have written (and loved each of them!) I think that this, by far, is the very best. Sending you big hugs. There is a hole in many hearts.
I lost my father almost 15 years ago. He was one of my best friends, one of my biggest supporters, and sometimes one of my harshest critics. But he always loved me and when he was gone there was a hole inside me that has never lessened. I am truly sorry for your loss. Knowing he was so proud of you and loved you so much is a wonderful thing. Hold on to that when you are feeling down. I wish I could give you advice on how to work your way through this grief but I can’t. I learned it is a very personal thing, losing a parent, and the process you have to go through will be different for you than it was for me. I’m sending you love and peace from Winter Garden, FL and I hope you see you dad in your dreams ❤
Hi….The Pictures say a lot about the Wonderful relation you shared with your Dad…cherish the wonderful memories you have of him…..
It’s in these memories that you will find his legacy……..there’s no consolation for having to live without the Wonders of OUR World….but when the support to lean on vanishes that’s when the Roots dig deeper. Take heart.
Thanks for posting. I lost my dad a couple weeks ago and will be giving a eulogy in a few days. This is inspiring.