The father I knew was a man of his generation. A devout Catholic who was hard-working, stubborn opinionated and gruff. I will admit as a child and teenager I was a little bit scared of him sometimes. I had many friends who wouldn't even call the house for fear of my dad and his annoyed “Hello?” when he answered the phone. And it seemed like he always answered the phone. For many people that gruff man was the only version of my father that they saw. But, like all of us he had many facets and used his experiences in this life to grow and change.
He started his career with the USGS as a surveyor in the field and that adventurous exploring spirit never left him even when he got his desk job at the federal center. To fill that need he took his family on great vacations. The most amazing family vacation was a trip to Alaska. It was on that trip that I saw a moose so close I could almost touch it. We had camped one night at a hot spring’s campground. Walking back from the springs down this wooden boardwalk surrounded by thick forest on each side we came into a clearing and there it was. Right there in all its gigantic glory just standing there in the marsh. We didn’t linger to get photo but I'll never forget that or all the other adventures that happened on that trip. Like going to Chicken, Alaska, hearing about my mother getting hit on at a bar while trying to get ice or getting a flat tire and my mom and I waving towels to keep the mosquitoes off my dad and brother while they changed it. We saw the Alaskan pipeline and the amazing scenery of Alaska and Canada. You can't drive almost 10,000 miles and not see God's handiwork everywhere.
While the Alaska trip was epic the place with the most memories for us as a family was Lake Powell. Ask anyone in the family and they will have a multitude of memories to share with you. Everything from “I can't hear you!” to “Who wants to go skiing?” or “Tighten that anchor rope” to “The gold medal for the flipper run in beach Olympics is...” Don't get me wrong while most of the memories are happy, we had our fair share of bad memories at the lake as well. From scary storms, or the time my brother’s fireworks set the mountain on fire to Mike’s accident. All those experiences – the good and the bad – tied us together as a family and gave us the lake as one of Dad's legacy. None of us would have those memories if Dad hadn't wanted to explore every mile of that Lake. When going to the lake was no longer possible for my parents my heart broke just a little.
My Dad was so much more than the disease that took his life and PSP took a toll on each of us in different ways. But this awful disease also gave me my father in ways I would never have imagined and for that I am grateful. You see, my siblings had more time, year's more, with my dad to make memories with him. When he was diagnosed, I knew time was limited and precious so what I lacked in quantity I had to made up with quality. I spent a lot of time with him these last few years while he was sick and watched as his hard shell started cracking. He was allowing himself to be emotionally vulnerable with me and allowed me to care for him. From blowing his nose to helping him eat. Some would say I spoiled him but what was really happening was the expression of a deep abiding love. Flowing both ways, from me to him and from him to me.
We spent a lot of time just being together watching TV or listening to Mike Rowe’s podcast, “The way I heard it” but we also spent a lot of time talking and he shared his life and memories with me. I told him about my life, my beliefs and my feelings. Things that I had always been afraid or too embarrassed to share with my gruff no-nonsense father. We talked about God and church, death and dogs. Nothing was off-limits. It was through these conversations that I started to see the other side of my dad. A person like me had fears and flaws. My father was a loyal man who loved his wife deeply for over 58 years and was determined to make it to her 80th birthday. He never stopped worrying about her well-being and would have given anything to take care of her until her last day here on Earth. I’m sure he who would gladly swap places with her right now to save her from grief and loneliness.
I have deep respect for my father and the life that he lived. All of us have benefited from being connected to my Dad. It's from my father that I got my stubbornness, which I prefer to call determination, and hard-working nature, my love of photography and adventure as well as my faith in God and love for family.
Because of all the things my father did in his life I think the thing he is most proud of was being a husband and a father.
My Dad loved his family and had a huge heart even if you didn't always see it.