Saint Patrick’s Day is usually a time of reflection for me. I suppose it is my equivalent of other people’s New Year’s Eve/Day. It’s a time to look back at how far I’ve come, examine where I want to go, and remember my Dad.
March 16th, 1977 – Daddy and I were sitting at the kitchen table. It was just the two of us in the idyllic Ojai Valley of Southern California. I had left my mother and step-father back East almost two years before. It was dark, so I guess it was sometime after 7 o’clock. We had just finished dinner and Daddy was having a bowl of Black Jack Cherry ice cream. He suddenly jumped to his feet, slapped his hand to his forehead, his chest, and again to his forehead, then collapsed back into his chair. It was so incredibly bizarre. I remember being fascinated by how blue his eyes were. Daddy worked in the sun and had a permanent squint, so I had never had the chance to notice that his eyes were the blue of arctic ice.
It would be days before I found out he’d had a massive stroke, massive heart attack, and another massive stroke. The man at the mortuary said that Daddy must have been a very strong man, as any one of those would have instantly killed a normal person.
Daddy, with a little help from me and a lot of help from the paramedics and hospital staff, lived until four minutes after midnight. True to the Irish heritage he stoutly defended, he managed to exit this life on the most Irish day of all, Saint Patrick’s Day.
They never did let me see him after he died. They were afraid I would be traumatized by the bruising to his face and neck. Little did they know the trauma I would inflict on myself by believing it was all a hoax and he would be coming back for me.
It was years before I gave up hope of him returning to rescue me from the chaos that was my life. I was twelve years, one month, and two weeks old when he died. I was a hair past 28 the last time I whipped a U-turn to follow a van driven by a man who looked like Daddy.
I learned to love from him.
Actually, I learned everything I would know about love for a long time from him.
When he was angry, he didn’t shout or hit. He’d go for a walk and think about it, then he would come back and talk. Unless he didn’t like you, then you might get punched. After all, he was Irish. They don’t call them the Fighting Irish for nothing.
Love says what it means, but doesn’t say it mean.
He had some of the biggest hands I’d ever seen, but he was so gentle. He could take apart almost anything and fix it, or he could hold a baby duck, bunny, or goat as it was taking its first breath.
Love can handle anything.
He let me have every animal I asked for, except a cat, as long as I took care of them. I couldn’t have a cat because he had birds, and the birds were there first.
Love is loyal.
He traded his beloved speed boat to get me a pony. His only request was that I be careful. My friends and I used to have the best time running races on our horses. Tony (the pony) was the smallest, but we won a lot of the races. Daddy let me ride all over town without supervision.
The only spanking Daddy ever gave me was over that pony. He came home one day while I was practicing to be in the circus. Tony was tied to a phone pole, and I was standing on his back, waving to my adoring fans (Daddy in his van.) Apparently, this scared my adoring fan out of his wits. He told me to put the pony away and come in the house, where he proceeded to give me a spanking with a plastic flyswatter over my heavy corduroy pants. I was pretending to cry, pleading for him not to beat me while laughing at how stupid he was. After all, I’d had beatings; he didn’t even know how to give a good spanking. Then he stood me up and I saw the tears streaming down his face.
Love keeps boundaries, even when they hurt the lover more than the loved.
The day of Daddy’s funeral, I kept feeling something on the back of my left arm, just above my elbow. Every time I looked, there was nothing there. To this day, I know that my Daddy is with me. He is my Forever Leprechaun, always looking over me, protecting me, bringing good to me.
Love never ends.
Thanks, Daddy. This one is for you. I miss you. I wish I could have one more day of hugs, to tell you I love you, to see your eyes with the light still in them, to introduce you to my son. He chose to be called Jack, just like you. But you already knew that, didn’t you?
Love knows everything that’s important, and overlooks the rest.