It never gets any easier, people say it does. But it doesn’t. It hurts just as much today as it did six years ago and you just have to live with it.
It’s been six years since my Dad passed away and it’s always a tough week as I celebrate my daughter’s birthday one day and remember my Dad’s passing the next. I try to celebrate his life instead of agonizing about his death and why he got sick, but I end up just missing his presence everywhere I go that day.
In smelling his last bottle of cologne he left on the bathroom counter, or hearing the few messages he left on the answering machine, I still feel a sense of closeness. But most of the connection I get is from the stories and adventures we had together.
Like when I used to visit him at work back in my elementary and junior high school days. I’d have to sit in a booth, or at the counter while he was picking up his check or something. He worked two jobs a lot of the time. This one seemed more fun to me since I was able to eat all the cherries I wanted.
I’d wait for him, checking out the tiki torch lamps, totem polls, the pink, green, and yellow drink umbrellas hanging out by the green olives, and the rest of the Hawaiian decor that filled the dimly lit room.
Their specialty was the the Hawaiian-style spare ribs, which were pretty awesome but not my favorite.
I’d sit down and look at the menu pretending I was a customer. I’d say hi to the manager and everyone setting up, and he’d ask me … “You want something to drink? A Shirley Temple?”
“Yeah,” I’d say.
He’d smile and then walk behind the bar to fix it up. It’s a simple drink really, but I’d always thought it was super special concoction he had created just for me. He’d bring it out in a tall glass, with an umbrella. He’d put a small napkin on the counter, place my drink on it, and then tap the counter.
I’d smile when I saw it.
He’d always put extra cherries in it. We’d talk for a minute while I sipped my drink, and most of the conversations escape me at the moment. I don’t remember whether we talked about my day, his day, or if I needed money for sneakers. I don’t remember if he gave me any advice or if we cracked jokes, but we must have because it feels that way.
But the one thing I do remember were all the Shirley Temples and Roy Rogers I shared with him.I remembered the Hawaiian shirts he had to wear as part of his uniform and how he hated them years later, how he never wore a Hawaiian shirt ever again. Even when we went to Hawaii. He said he had worn enough of those to last him a lifetime. I thought they were cool though, I still have one of his in my closet.
We’d sit at the counter or in the booth and it felt cool just to hang out with my Dad for a minute.
When I finished my drink and we had to be on our way, he’d ask if I wanted another.
I’d smile because I knew extra cherries were part of the deal.
That was my Dad, he was an extra cherries kind of guy, and these were the things I thought about all day, and a sadness and hurt filled up my heart that night because he was gone and things would have been so different if he were still here, and my kids missed out on getting to know their grandpa.
But I guess that would mean that I would have to be the extra cherries kind of person in their life.
My Dad was great at it. Me? I’m working on it.
Buen Camino …