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Speaking of Fathers


Such a simple word, yet such a pleasurable one. It evokes images of children fleeing joyfully from stuffy classrooms while tired and overworked teachers slump bonelessly into their chairs and thank their lucky stars they made it through another year.

It invokes all one's senses with memories of the smell of freshly cut grass, the first ecstatic lick of a rapidly melting scoop of ice cream, the roar of an excited crowd at a baseball game, the warmth of the sun against one's rapidly reddening skin.

June means so many things: weddings, backyard barbecues, trips to the beach, hiking up mountain trails -- and Father's Day.

My dad loved June, loved the summer. He loved mowing the lawn, puttering around the shrubbery, digging up and planting all the various vegetation my mother declared the yard couldn't do without. He loved sitting on the back porch with my mom in the evening, watching the sun set while he bent any willing ear with tales of his and my mom's travels, McIlroy family stories and terribly corny jokes.

My dad loved my mom. He loved his children too, but Mom was his life, his reason for living. She made his sun rise and his world spin. He called mom "Tiger," and she called him "Pappy." Even after 40-plus years of marriage and a spate of bad health, they held hands and kissed each other like teenagers on their first date. The love my dad and mom shared set my own personal standard for relationships.

I speak in past tense of my father because last December, on a cold and snowy night, as my dad slept, some gentle hand reached down and took him away. It was a mercifully, blessedly easy passing for a man who suffered for some time from a variety of illnesses that left him at the mercy of cold, impersonal machines and indifferent nurses and doctors.

It was a release and yet, how I miss him. I miss his boundless pleasure in his grand and great-grandchildren, the wicked sparkle in his blue eyes when he pulled off a practical joke, and the way he enjoyed scratching my cheek with his five-o'clock shadow when he gave me a hug. I miss his compassion, his generosity and his crazy sense of humor.

Father's Day 2003 will be tough, but I figured out how to get through it. After I putter around with my houseplants, I'll sit out on my balcony at sunset, call my grandchildren and tell them tales of their great-grandparent's travels around the world, McIlroy family stories and even a few corny jokes.

Just for you, Dad. I love you.

Teri Smith

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