Every now and then something will spark a memory that makes me laugh really hard. I know how lucky I am that I get to say that! And when that laugh comes from way deep down inside, causing me to throw my head back, and then have to catch my breath and immediately phone someone in my family who will “get it,” well – that laugh usually involves my Dad!
Today was one of those days.
My cousin Jo Ann in Nova Scotia used to come to Detroit and stay with me for long, fun visits. Some fun we still enjoy laughing about, and some fun we will never breathe a word about. To anyone. So don’t try to make us. Our lips are sealed.
Dad loved Jo Ann – he loved her just like one of his own daughters. And Jo Ann loved him too, ever since a very early memory in her childhood when Dad taught her what I like to call the “art of encouragement!” He seemed to have a way of teaching that to anyone he made eye contact with. And he did that one day for Jo Ann when she was a young girl with a pretty little face, great big beautiful eyes, and a face full of adorable little freckles. Lots of em!
Now, as if little girls aren’t already overly self-conscious enough about how they look, someone looked at Jo Ann and began laughing, and said to her, “Well, you must have been behind the screen door when the outhouse blew up!” (Only he didn’t say outhouse. He said s–t house). Poor little Jo Ann cried and cried. But my Dad, bless his heart – said to Jo Ann, “Don’t worry honey! When I was your age I had freckles too, but look at me now!”
My Dad was adorable – twinkly eyes and a smile that could melt the coldest heart.
The tears disappeared, a smile appeared, and a life-long friendship was begun. I remember after Dad died, I just couldn’t wait till Jo got here. Do you remember Jo? Do you remember where we went and what we did? (Don’t tell, now!)
Jo Ann told the outhouse story at Dad’s funeral, and many other stories were shared from so many people who knew Dad. We cried, but mostly we laughed. Laughter and fun run in my family’s blood. We call it badness back home. But really, it’s just good, clean, honest-to-goodness fun – shenanigans!
Jo Ann says that day when she was insulted by the outhouse blowing up comment, Dad became her earliest defender; able to make her feel seen and loved and understood. She loved when she’d hear he was coming home, which she knew was happening because her Gramma and our Aunt Jean would scrub the walls and the ceilings and stock the pantry. He was a kindred spirit who had adopted her as one of his own; a champion story teller; the strongest and kindest man she knew. He had a way of playing a tune down through the family lineage so that the generations who’d gone before had their notes to play, while those of us coming up clapped to the chorus. A true blue family man who made time for all of us in that tune of his.
I do hope you have some folks in your life who make you smile. Ones who defend you. Ones who are strong, but kind. Ones who make you laugh till you (almost) pee your pants. And ones who remind you when your outhouse blows up – that you’re beautiful, you matter, and you’re cherished!
Yep – Life’s just too short not to have some of those.
And I also hope you surround yourself with those who make your tears go away, a smile show up, and leave you with memories and stories that are so sweet and tender you just gotta write em down for your grandchildren – so they can tell em’ over and over and over!
Miss you Dad!
“Better to ask for forgiveness than for permission!” Jo Ann
Oh Jo, just look at you now! Stunning! And eyes that sparkle and a smile like my Dad’s. You too, can charm anyone within 100 feet of ya!