Today is Father’s Day. I absolutely adore my Daddy. He is literally the King of our crazy family. I am married to a man who brings more joy to my life than I knew was possible. He is all things to me and my girls and anyone we love. I have also been given the gift of a bonus dad named Goat. What I’m trying to say is that I am overflowing with reasons to smile on a day like today.
As I scroll through Facebook and Instagram today, I see all the “I have the best…” posts. I also feel acutely aware of those that are not posting. Those for which this day is especially hard. Those for whom the mention of a great father is salt on a gaping wound. Perhaps the pain of loss is too fresh to celebrate or even smile. I sit with you today. Because behind the smile, the joy, is a big lump in my daddy’s girl throat.
2018 has been a hard year for my Dad. There are all kinds of diagnostic codes and medical terms for what is happening. He has lost 60 pounds in less than 6 months. He has spent more time in a medical care facilities than with friends. He has endured me following him around prodding into his CBC counts and becoming fluent in all things healthcare. Just last Thursday, I convinced his doctor that I could give him shots at home – I mean, why not?
Speaking of last Thursday, we began our 10th annual Cousin Camp that same day. For the last decade, my mom has planned a weekend of over the top fun for the 3 kids, their spouses and the 6 grandkids. We move into my parent’s upstairs, invade their space and camp. We have games and competitions and laugh and we always have a family photo session one evening in the backyard. We have a little bit of competitive sibling fire. We may enjoy trash talking a bit too much. We may have also taught our children some wonderful life skills – no fun, fair, positive, everyone gets a trophy kinda nonsense.
Leading into Cousin Camp this year, Dad and Mom made the decision to sell their house. We knew that this would be a unique and probably different weekend. With the house already on the market, my mom’s usual family pictures were off the walls and much of the house had been staged for simplicity. Mom had a list of things she wanted us to go through as a group, as well. From Thursday night on, we packed storytelling and laughter and perhaps a few tears (I mean allergy eyes) into the non-stop crazy action. We would tell stories and remind each other of our ‘favorite’ status – BTW, it’s me. In the midst of playing and eating and talking, I found myself worried about my dad’s food or energy or medicine. I knew that he was accustomed to rest after dialysis and instead, pool drenched grandchildren were running though the living room.
At one point in the weekend, I took him to get an injection in Katy and we had a few minutes alone. I asked how he was handling the chaos and if he felt ok. His response was classic. “I’m good. This is just about as good as I look these days.” That’s my dad. He would rather fuss about yard care or a future home project – that is completely unnecessary to 98% of homeowners – than complain about his muscle weakness or extreme fatigue. More than anything, he just wants to sit and watch with love and pride, the beauty and uniqueness of his kids and grandkids.
The highlight of the weekend came last night when I was SURE that we were beyond his ability to tolerate our nonsense. We were an hour into pictures and he had already taken a mid-shoot break, because we had taken too long to stage a silly yet hilarious shot. Let’s stop for a shout out to Nicole Pawlowski for always putting up with our crazy ideas. You are the best. Seriously.
As we tried to take a special kids/grandkids picture in the entry of Mom and Dad’s house, we had to work out the lighting, so posing was a little longer than usual. Mom and Dad were not in the shot, and Dad (in a seemingly annoyed voice) said, “Ok, everyone look here…” Being the obedient children that we are, we looked. And he DROPPED HIS PANTS. In the front yard. Before God, the neighbors and his grandchildren, my father stood in his boxers with his Docker’s around his ankles – cracking himself up.
Just when you think that he is too tired, too weak, too frail. Just when you think he is too formal or too business. Just when you least expect it, Papa King shows the side that we all adore. He has this smile. Even in his most vibrant days, you did not see it daily. He saves it. And when your guard is down and you are on your very best behavior, he takes a sharp left turn down Cut Up Blvd. He gets you every time with the twinkle of mischief in his eye.
This is not new. By all accounts it very present in his younger days. But as a kid, to see your dad belly laugh with friends and stir up nonsense with his grandkids is the best. These are moments of over the top laughter and priceless love. Today, I will cling to those memories of my Dad. And on the days that seem more serious and require fewer giggles, please remind me of the smile on the front porch the last time we were all together at 13603 Lakeshore Way Ct. It was a classic.
Well played, Franko, well played.