We had a small ceremony at the Columbarium in the Memorial Garden at the church and then the memorial service in the chapel. Several of my dad's friends were there representing different areas of his life and several of my friends also attended as did Taylor's best friend. Many wore gold and black for the Iowa Hawkeyes and in memory of my dad. Both Taylor and I spoke at the service and she did a great job! I know her Papa is proud!
The pastor was impressed that my dad had left behind a 10 page typed packet of notes from many of the years of his life that detailed his most important memories. It is a treasure that I have it. The pastor encouraged all of us to sit down and do something similar as we give thanks this coming week. To leave behind such memoirs is a gift for our loved ones and friends.
I managed to get through my part and thought I would include my tribute to my dad here. As I begin to move forward with life again, I know I will miss him dearly, but I know that he and my mom are together and watching to see what life brings us next.
My dad was a huge sports fan. The Iowa Hawkeyes were his passion. He followed college sports and loved to banter back and forth with so many friends and their rival teams. We often scheduled things around when the Hawks played. He is certainly smiling now with the Hawkeyes being undefeated and my standing up here in a Hawkeye shirt. Today is an Iowa Game day as well as my grandfather’s birthday, so it is a fitting day to celebrate my dad’s life.
This is the second time I have stood up here. When I lost mom in 2013 it was hard, but since she had gone through the ravages of Alzheimer’s I had lost her slowly over many years and her passing was more expected and a release from the bonds of a disease that took her memories and mind. This time it is much more difficult. Dad was still active and sharp as a tack. He had recovered very well from his gallbladder surgery and was expected to only need some physical rehab for a week. Instead he was talking to me one moment about emailing Chris about stocks and options and gone in an instant. It has truly been a shock to my system.
With mom I lost my confidant. With my dad I lost my advisor, my rock, my hero.
I remember my dad telling me that he felt like he traveled too much as I grew up. He was afraid that I felt he wasn’t there enough. But I don’t remember him as always traveling or being gone. He made sure that the time he was not traveling was family time. I remember looking up and seeing him cheering me on at the swim meets and at the soccer games when I was a young child in Ohio. I remember building huge snowmen with him and going sledding and ice skating. He was my biggest supporter and always cheering at my softball games when we moved to Atlanta. He came to watch me at football games as I performed in the marching band. He sat through many concerts through many years as I was in a couple of bands during high school. I remember going to Hilton Head and Sanibel. I remember Iowa bowl game trips especially going to the 1982 Rose Bowl. I remember family vacations whether on our own to places like Disney World or with other family friends to Mammoth Caves. I remember election night parties and holiday dinners. I remember him as always being there.
My parents were not huge disciplinarians with me. My dad told me I was a very good child with only a few months of “drama” when I was 13. If there was ever a time I may have gotten in trouble, my mom would say the words I dreaded “We will talk about this when your dad gets home” I would have much preferred the yardstick to be brought out and used than to get the lecture from my dad. I never wanted to disappoint him….
When I became pregnant with my daughter Taylor, my dad was looking at property in the mountains that they would move to. He told my mom “We won’t be that involved in our grandchild’s life” My mom laughed at him and told him that his granddaughter would have him wrapped around her little finger as soon as she was born. Boy was my mom right and my dad wrong! Taylor had him wrapped at first sight. They were an integral part of her life. Once I divorced and became a single mom, they stepped in and lessened my mommy guilt for working long hours by picking up Taylor from daycare a few times a week and having her spend a night a week with them. My dad loved having Taylor around and delighted in all of her antics. She was one lucky girl to be able to spend so much time with her grandparents.
My dad also delighted in his first grandson, Bobby. He was impressed with his Lego creation abilities and loved to wear his Lao Ye Chinese shirt when we would meet for a meal. He loved that Bobby and I finally found the prized shell of Sanibel that dad and I had been searching for since our first visits to the island.
Dad also enjoyed meeting David and David cheered him on as he got up and walked the first couple of times after surgery. My dad would smile as David said “Good job Lao Ye!” I am so sad that my boys did not get more time to spend with such a positive male role model. My dad would have loved that David shares his love of sports and would have become his game watching buddy.
As I have received notes about my dad, I am beginning to realize that while I am very much like my mom, I am also very much like my dad. I learned from what was modeled, by how his life was lived. My heart for helping others came not only from my mom, but also I am finding out from my dad. My desire to help others, but to do so quietly and behind the scenes is very much like him. Doing my best at everything I attempt and knowing that we all make mistakes that we can learn from also comes from him. One time I had to admit to him that I had not followed one of his life lessons he had tried to teach me. It was harder to tell him that than the fallout from my not following his advice. He reassured me that he hadn’t always followed his own advice on that one either and had made the same mistake. His “fatherly advice” was to just move forward and know that everyone makes mistakes.
When I decided to adopt a child, I got up the courage to tell me dad. I wasn’t sure what he would think since I was already a single mom and older and because I wanted to adopt a child with special needs. I remember him smiling and saying “This does not surprise me at all. You have the heart for these kids” He even wrote the family reference letter. When I decided to adopt one more son he was fully supportive.
My parents both taught me about the joy of adoption by the way they raised me and told me my story. Adoption was never a taboo subject in our house as it was for many back in the 60’s and 70’s, rather it was something that was normal and to be celebrated. I was and will forever be their chosen one. I am so very grateful and thankful to have been adopted by my parents. I know how lucky I am. I know that I got the best. I know that my dad was the best male role model I could ever have had. He was a great teacher of life lessons and of how to treat others. He gave me a solid foundation to build my life on and made me the strong person I am today. He gave me the confidence to be a single mom and to continue to take on challenges. Genetics may be strong but he proved that the environment can be just as strong if not stronger. He never considered me his adopted daughter. I was just his daughter and in the end when I was discussing the validity of some of the things I read about adopted kids he finally realized I was talking about myself. He said “Oh, you are talking about yourself. I forget that we adopted you.” Yep, any man can be a father but it truly takes someone special to be a dad. My dad was very special and I will miss him greatly
Bye dad, I love you! Give mom a hug from me! Go hawks!