Happy Birthday Daddy
Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I remember my brother standing in dress blues behind my mom at our fathers funeral, his white gloved hand on her shoulder, back straight, shoulders squared under pressed fabric, the flag covered coffin before them. The sound of the gun salute cracked the bright air with the suddenness of a whip. I watched as the white gloved hand convulsed on my mothers shoulders and a sob wrenched from his throat. I'd never seen my brother cry before, I can still see him, forever frozen in that one moment.

My father...

How can two small words convey what he was to me? He was (and is still) my hero. He was the chaser of all bogeymen from dark corners of a home clothed in night. He had the power to quell my fears by just being there. I was secure in my place in this world, one little peg in a board, snuggled into my life with the firmness of his will.

The world became a scary place the day we lost him.

He was one of twelve surviving children. He left home at 16 and fudged his birth certificate to get away from a father grown bitter and mean from unfulfilled dreams and pressing familial obligations.

My earliest memory of him is from Panama. I was about five years old with long sun streaked blond hair. I was the darling of the family, coming late (and a bit unexpectedly) in life. Dotted on by everyone by virtue of being born last. Secure in the knowledge that I could cry and bat my baby browns at my daddy and all would be made right again, much to my siblings chagrin.
This particular day I remember the world from my fathers shoulders. Clad in a flaming red sweat suit, hair in pigtails swinging too and fro to the rhythm of my sneaker clad feet that were clasped firmly in my fathers grip. I viewed the tropical paradise I called home, smug in my perch, a small yellow canary with red wings. We were walking to see my mom at the bowling alley. It was one of the few times I got him all to myself and the memory of that day I take out often and shake like a snow globe, watching the images fall around me.

I know he was on the shorter side, but I only know this from photographs. No one ever said it because it was never noticed; he had a presence that would loom over you as if from great heights. He was strong, honest,honorable, and one of the hardest working men I have ever met. As I grew older, I learned he was fallible too.

My dad was a Brigade Command Sergeant Major in the United States Army. He was the father of five children, retired after thirty years of service and went on to become a certified welder and mechanic. I don't believe there was anything my dad couldn't fix or do once he set his mind upon it. He used to keep a dictionary handy and every day he would learn a new word. It was the known joke in our home that dad went back to school after he retired so that mom wouldn't divorce him. He kept trying to run the house like he would run his battalion, only problem was mom was the commanding officer in that department. My father was not a stupid man, so off to school and work he went.

To this day, the smell of motor oil and old spice makes my throat tight and my heart warm.

He liked to play in the kitchen when mom wasn't looking. One particular dinner that I was an accomplice too was meat loaf with raisins. Yup...raisins. Sounded like a good idea to me when he proposed it..but then, I was only about eight. You could say that the rest of the family were a bit more ignorant in their appreciation of a creative chef.

Every morning I would get up to get ready for school and he would already be in the kitchen. Jeans slung onto his athletic frame, elbows propping him up as he leaned on the counter reading. The oven door would be open beside him, making the air warm and soft in the dimly lit kitchen. His dark hair, hair that normally was slicked into obedience, would always be this wild mess that I would secretly giggle about as I began getting ready for school.

I don't remember my father sitting much. He couldn't. His back had been bent and abused for too many years in the service and it hurt him to sit. So he leaned. He leaned in the kitchen the most but occasionally would come watch TV, leaning on the back of the couch. I watched the movie Jaws with him leaning behind me. Nerves tight, waiting for either the shark or my dad to pounce. He loved B movies, I loved them because he did.

We found out he had lung cancer and only had ten years to live when we were In Panama. I was five. I remember sitting on the counter of the bathroom in the bowling alley where my mother coached while my sisters cried. I didn't understand why they were crying..silly girls. Didn't they know that MY daddy could never die?

When I was sixteen he went into the hospital where they removed all but half of one lung. Two large oxygen tanks moved into our home and one small portable one as well. He would never wear the small one out of the house. Damned if he could breathe or not, that thing went into the car to appease my mother but I can testify it came off as soon as we turned the corner. My mother told him she would divorce him if she ever saw him smoke again....so he started smoking in the bathroom. The smell of Salem 100's would waft from under the door and my mother would walk through it as if it didn't exist. After all...she didn't "see" anything.

He had a temper. I suppose it was passed down from his unhappy father and again passed onto us. With it came stubbornness that we also received in large doses from both our parents. Having five children on a NCO salary, living through wars, moving constantly..I imagine they needed both of those traits several times in their lives.

His words could cut you deep when you did something wrong, but when the shit hit the fan, I've never seen anyone calmer. I never heard him yell over the big things. I could take a reaming for my messy room, but when I told him I backed into the neighbors car on accident he went out, checked out the damage and came back in and said, "ok, I'll take care of it. Weren't you going somewhere?" and with that I was shoed out the door.

He lost his fight with cancer on July 27th, 1991. I was eighteen.

At his funeral there were men there that I had never seen. Quiet, standing back, most of them alone. They were men who served under him. Men who felt they were alive because of my father. Men he led to war and back. Here because of who my father was.

He smoke, drank, could cuss you under a table and cut you to the quick with some well placed barbs but he was more then that. He loved us, each one of us, like we were everything to him. He sacrificed and saved and went without so that us kids would not have too.

I remember shortly before he died, taking a car ride with him to the store. He looked at me and said, "you know I love you right?". My throat closed, I hadn't heard those words from him in years. "Yah dad, I do."

And I did.

He may not have said it aloud, but every step he made, every morning he got up when he was sick and in pain, every time he fixed what I may have broken...he said it many times in many ways.

I love you dad.

Happy Birthday.

Anonymous Gypsy had this to say:

That was lovely and made me cry and want to go hug my daddy.

Happy birthday to your dad.

1:20 PM, September 20, 2006 

Blogger Sassy Momma had this to say:

Very touching. Made me cry and laugh. Happy birthday to your dad.

4:40 PM, September 20, 2006 

Anonymous ficklechick had this to say:

What a great tribute to your dad.

Happy Birthday to your dad!

4:51 PM, September 20, 2006 

Blogger some girl had this to say:

I'm all misty eyed. And I have to call my Daddy, like, NOW.

This was a wonderful enrty. Happy B-day, Papa KaraMia.

7:12 PM, September 20, 2006 

Anonymous kimmy had this to say:

Funny how you know someone half your life, but you still find yourself learning new things about them. Everytime you write about mom and dad, it takes me back...seems just like yesterday when we were hanging out in the neighborhood and I can see them so clearly.... I know they're both very proud of you, for what you've endured and for the person you've become. :o)

9:46 PM, September 20, 2006 

Blogger HoosierGirl5 had this to say:

Very nice. Very well done.

3:55 AM, September 21, 2006 

Blogger Pam had this to say:

Oh my, I'm just bawling right now. Such a wonderfully written tribute.
I wish I felt that way about my dad. I wish I could say anything remotely close to what you said about yours, about mine.
Excellent writing. Excellent topic.
Thank you very much.

7:07 AM, September 21, 2006 

Blogger kristen had this to say:

this was beautifully and exquisitely written. i don't know what else to say. i am sending hugs over the airspace.

7:36 AM, September 21, 2006 

Blogger Carrie had this to say:

Gosh Kara! You didn't have to go and make me cry. No, I love it when you open up. I also love the way you write. Have you ever thought about taking it up?

Happy Birthday to your dad!

8:50 AM, September 21, 2006 

Blogger Shephard had this to say:

Very touching and sweet. I agree with Carrie. Nicely written.

Here from Michele's,

12:55 PM, September 21, 2006 

Anonymous cyndy had this to say:

Happy Birthday to your daddy!

Here from Michele

2:31 PM, September 21, 2006 

Blogger carli had this to say:

a lovely tribute to what sounds like a helluva guy. Thanks for sharing. Michele says hi.

3:50 PM, September 21, 2006 

Blogger barbie2be had this to say:

karamia, this is beautiful. my father passed away when i was 28 and i still miss him every day.

visiting from michele's.

4:01 PM, September 21, 2006 

Blogger kari had this to say:

Such warm memories. I have tears...barely contained. Happy birthday Karamia's hero...from Kari.

8:47 AM, September 22, 2006 

Blogger ƒåυνέ had this to say:

How touching...Happy Birthday Karamia's Dad

12:08 PM, September 22, 2006 

Blogger Callie had this to say:

What a wonderful post, and an honor to the man who raised you.

That was absolutely beautiful.

12:25 PM, September 22, 2006 

Blogger TamWill had this to say:

Your dad sounds like a great person! A very lovely tribute.

6:16 PM, September 22, 2006 

Blogger Red Hot Sexy Papa had this to say:

That last paragraph... woah.. powerful.

10:20 PM, September 22, 2006 

Anonymous InterstellarLass had this to say:

You're so lucky Kara. Your dad sounds like a great man.

8:24 AM, September 26, 2006 

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