Tag Archives: family

A Day in the North Woods

Last Saturday, our son had a track meet two hours north of our home.

Our daughter was busy, so Doug and I decided to take a road trip to the high school to cheer Josh and his teammates on. We had never been that far north, and it was a beautiful spring day, so  loaded up the cooler, set the radio to 80s tunes, and took off.

Even though it is May, the leaves are only just beginning to appear on the trees.  Even with the lack of green, it was still beautiful.

There is still snow on the mountain tops.

We sure are a long way from south Florida where we lived for five years. 🙂

We made a quick stop at McDonald’s halfway there. The McGriddle… a wonderful blend of salty and sweet…the breakfast of champions:

We arrived just as the meet was beginning.

Josh and his team did very well.  I was able to capture him running back to his team after one of his events:

Getting ready to pass the baton in the relay…

I took one last shot of the track before Doug and I left to head home after the meet…

The clouds were beginning to move in as we headed south…

I asked Doug to stop the car so I could capture this covered bridge…quintessential New England…

Another one…

We decided to stop at a local restaurant in the White Mountains for an early dinner…

We loved this place! The food was delicious and the staff was so friendly…

We have lived in New Hampshire for nearly 4 years now and I would desperately love to see a real live moose.

Unfortunately, this is as close as I have ever been to one:

However, I continue to live in hope. We have had turkeys, deer, and black bears wander through our yard. Surely a moose will make an appearance one day!

By the time Doug and I got home, I was tired but it was a good tired.

After 21 years together, there is no one I would rather spend the day with than my husband. He is my very best friend and I love doing life with him. We never run out of things to talk about and we laugh often.

The pastor who married us counseled us to never stop dating.

We have taken his advice to heart and after 19 years of marriage, we have a date once a month.  He still makes my heart race.

After Josh returned home from the track meet, I took him and Julia to the high school for the Saturday evening performance of Anything Goes, courtesy of the drama club.

This was the scene that greeted us when we pulled into the parking lot:

So beautiful!

The play was very funny and I so enjoyed sharing the experience with my kids.

When I went to bed that night, my heart was so full.

Nothing monumental or extraordinary had happened that day…but it was a day that I got to spend with the ones I love the most in this world. That is the greatest gift of all.

Life is so precious and I try not to take even one minute for granted. Little did I know that in just a couple of hours, I would be reminded how fragile our time on this earth really is.

When you go through an extended trial, such as we have been enduring, all the superfluous things melt away…and life is stripped down to its essence…God and family.

It is a beautiful  brokenness.

As Ann Voskamp writes, “Is this what brokenness really is? A state of wonder? When we are broken, we take nothing for granted  and we are astonished by breath and being and the most simple extraordinary grace. When we are broken, being at all is the wonder, everyday grace is a miracle and we see that this is what is real: everything is a staggering gift.”   



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Weekend Moment: Easter 2003

 This photo marked our first Easter in south Florida.

It truly was  a new beginning for all of us.

The year before was without a doubt the hardest year of our lives. I underwent surgery, Doug’s job was cut, we had to sell our home, and my father died.

In January of 2003, Doug was offered a job in south Florida and we moved there in February.

The sunshine and warm weather were a balm to our souls after what had felt like a never-ending winter.

The day we left the northeast to make the long drive south, it was 4 degrees below zero. We had experienced several days in a row of snow and the grayness and cold seemed to have seeped into my heart. The Florida sunshine was so healing. For the first two weeks, I just  literally sat by the pool and soaked it in.

I also made the unfortunate decision to cut my hair short and have it dyed white-blond. My new stylist tried to talk me out of it, but I was determined to make a big change. In my mind, it represented a break with the previous awful year and a brand new start.

What was I thinking?!

At any rate, Easter morning dawned bright and beautiful. My mom was visiting and she took this photo right before we left to visit a new church right down the road. I can’t believe how little the kids look to me…particularly since I look up at both of them now! 🙂

The main thing I see when I look at this photo is a family who is bonded together in a very powerful way. Having lived through a year of heartbreak, we were more aware than ever of the preciousness and brevity of life. We were stronger, full of faith, and ready to seize all the joy and laughter we could.

The church we visited that year had the strangest Easter service ever. It looked like a traditional Baptist church on the outside…but the minister rambled on and on for about an hour and a half…and he never mentioned the resurrection or the fact that it was Easter Sunday even once!

However…even that weird service could not dim our joy.

Easter is a glorious time of new beginnings and we were living ours.

Because of Easter, Christ’s love and joy blaze undimmed regardless of circumstances. He is an expert at healing wounded hearts and giving beauty for ashes.

“God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus

He came to love, heal, and forgive

He lived and died to buy my pardon

An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because he lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living, just because He lives”–Bill Gaither


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Scattered Pictures…

“…scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind…”  —from The Way We Were

I have been blessed with so many special people in my life. Here are just a few:

This is my mom, Mabel:

She is a wonderful mother. She always told my brother and me that we could tell her anything. She warned us that she might cry (and she did!) but she was true to her word. What an incredible gift to bestow upon your children…we knew that our voices would be heard.

She is also a prayer warrior. One of the greatest gifts she gave me was to begin praying for my future spouse when I was still a little girl. Once I got to know Doug and he told me his story, we could both see God’s hand upon his life, guarding and guiding him…in response to the  faithful prayers of a woman he had never met from a small Pennsylvania town.

I am giving my two children this same priceless gift.

These are my dad’s last remaining siblings: my Aunt Dot (who you read about here) and my Uncle Duane:

Uncle Duane is an WWII Army veteran who enjoyed a long and distinguished career as an accountant in downtown Pittsburgh. He owned a beach house in Myrtle Beach, SC, which provided our family and friends with years of fun in the sun. He is one of the most selfless, kind, giving people I have ever known and has been the greatest cheerleader of his nieces and nephews.

Aunt Dot is a delightful enigma. On one hand, she is a very classy, refined lady. And on the other, she will do such things as spontaneously hop on the backseat of my cousin Kenny’s motorcycle for a quick spin around the block—when she was 80; tear up the dance floor at family weddings; and cheer passionately for her beloved Steelers. She also makes no secret of her love for bald men, jeeps, and the super- tight pants of pro football players.  🙂

This is my Aunt Evelyn:

To this day, she remains the most beautiful person I have ever seen in real life.

I struggled terribly with the “ugly duckling” image when I was young. I adored Aunt Evelyn. Not only was she  funny and kind to me but she was so glamorous. All I wanted was to wake up one day and look just like her. Since that obviously wasn’t going to happen, I tried to imitate her as much as I could.  I especially loved the scents she chose and prevailed upon my parents to buy them for me. How my mom must have smiled when I went off to school in a cloud of either Angel Fire or Celadon, feeling oh-so-sophisticated. 🙂

Here is a photo of my friend Tracy on her wedding day in 1989. Tracy was the subject of my first post:

That’s me on the right and our friend Amy on the left. Tracy and I were best friends since we were five years old. We spent countless hours together. She was an only child and I didn’t have a sister, so we decided that we would be sisters to each other. It was only natural that I would be her maid of honor when she got married. She would only live seven more months after this day, which was a gloriously joyous one for her. I am so happy that she got to know what it was like to be a bride. I still miss her to this day.

Below is a photo of my family and my second parents…Carolyn and Dale:

I have literally known them all my life. They lived next door to us and their kids, Rob and Linda, are my oldest friends. Most of my childhood memories involve them one way or another. Our families were there for each other through the good times, as well as the heartbreaks. We even took vacations together. We were truly family.

In August of 2008, we had gone back to PA for a hometown visit.  This photo marked the last time my family and I saw Carolyn. She died  suddenly eight months  later. I miss hearing her cheerful, “Hi Suz!” when she would call to update me on what was going on in the neighborhood or with my former high school classmates.  Dale was one of my dad’s best friends and he posesses a quiet and dry sense of humor.  My life is richer because this special family has been such a big part of it.

“Friends are relatives you make for yourself.”–Deschamps

And lastly, but certainly not least, this is my brother Jeff (with a 6 year old Josh):

Jeff is four years younger than me and for most of the time when we were growing up, we really didn’t have too much in common. Fortunately, that changed when we became adults. However, Doug and I moved away after we got married, so we only saw each other sporadically. It wasn’t until he decided to move to Florida with us after our dad died that we truly became friends.

I absolutely adore him. As anyone who knows him will attest, he is one of the funniest people ever. He can make me smile on even my roughest day.  He and I amuse ourselves endlessly by quoting obscure lines from movies we have seen ages ago. He loves to sing “Cause I’m A Blond” to me every time I say something a little ditzy (which, unfortunately is often!). He is a wonderful uncle to my kids and a fiercely loyal friend. We have been there for each other through thick and thin. I am doubly blessed to have a brother who is also one of my very best friends.

Good thing too…he knows too much! 🙂

Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life.”–Albert Einstein


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The Jeff Bird

In 2005, I developed a severely herniated disc in my back that  eventually required surgery. Until the problem was properly diagnosed, I was in a lot of pain that necessitated much bed rest.

My family really should have given me a bell to ring when I needed something but since they didn’t, I had no choice but to shout loudly for someone, as our bedroom was at the far end of the house.

I seemed to call for my brother Jeff (who was living with us at the time) more than anyone else, as the kids were still quite young and Doug worked long hours.

So on any given day, the name “JEFF!” rang through the house several times.

(To his credit, he was unfailingly patient and good-natured…although there was that one time I woke up and he was standing over me with a pillow, saying “It’s for the best.”) 🙂

As you might imagine, the windows in Florida are not insulated, so sound carries easily. We were also blessed with a lot of cool days that year, so we were actually able to turn the air conditioning off and open the windows from time to time.

In the fall of that year, I had recovered from my surgery and not a moment too soon. Hurricane Wilma roared through south Florida as a Category 3, leaving a wide swath of destruction. Our neighborhood had no power for nine days.

Three days after the storm, a neighbor who owned a restaurant invited everyone to a cookout on the cul-de-sac around the corner from our house. The power was still out at the restaurant as well, so he decided to cook everything rather than having it spoil.

It was a delicious feast. Wilma had left cool breezes in her wake and we enjoyed spending time with our neighbors.

In the midst of talking and laughing, we suddenly heard it:


A moment passed, then there it was again:


We looked at each other in amazement, and followed the sound…to the garage of our neighbor who was providing the feast.

There, on a stand inside his open garage, was a parrot.

And he was yelling “JEFF!” over and over again, clear as a bell! And it sounded exactly like me!!!

We could not believe it…this bird had heard me yelling for Jeff all those times and was now repeating it!

Houses are very close together in south Florida and our neighbor’s home was diagonally behind ours, so the sound between houses carried easily. Our neighbor had also mentioned that his parrot liked to sit outside by the enclosed pool.

We have no doubt that our neighbor wondered why in the world his parrot was suddenly shouting the name Jeff…and we did not really want to enlighten him.

Parrots can live to up to 80 years old.

We left south Florida in 2007.

And that parrot still may be yelling for Jeff!

So, the moral of this story is be careful what you say. Your words may live on long after you’re gone. 🙂


Filed under Friends and Family, Humor

Weekend Moment:Disney Memories

Since my part of the country got over six inches of snow today, I decided to take a  trip down memory lane to a warmer and sunnier time: specifically to June 2004, when we took the kids to Disney for the first time. Josh was eight, Julia was seven and my mom and brother joined in the fun.

We provided the kids with autograph books, just as my parents had done for me back in the 70s, and they were immediately on the hunt. Goofy was spotted first:

Followed by Chip and Dale:

They were both excited to see Pluto:

Julia then ran into Captain Hook and Smee, the pirate. Captain Hook would have been terrifying to me as a seven year old, but Julia was unfazed. She marched right up to him, with autograph  book outstretched…and he stole it and wouldn’t give it back! She danced all around, trying to jump and grab it, but he held it just out of reach, laughing all the while. I would have cried for my mommy, but she needed no such help. She just giggled and kept saying, “Give it back, Captain Hook!” He finally relented, signed her book, and handed it back to her. As soon as it was back in her hands, she hightailed it out of there:

Smee followed her, clearly trying to make amends for Hook’s boorish behavior:

After giving her his autograph, he gave her a friendly nose squeeze before she went on her way:

After all that, some time with Grandma was in order:

Meanwhile, Josh decided to take a drive with Uncle Jeff:

While Julia met Brer Bear:

Then it was her turn to take a drive with Daddy:

She even had time to flash a quick smile for the camera:

After a fun-filled day at the park, we headed back to our hotel, which was based on all the old Disney movies:

And Julia needed some serious down time:

We were there for three days and it was absolutely wonderful. Disney truly is the happiest place on earth. 🙂

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46 Years

I turned 46 years old yesterday.

It was the sweetest of days…a celebration of the beautiful God who gave me this life,  family, friends, laughter, quiet moments, and simple joys:

*receiving lavender roses (my very favorite!) from my beloved husband

*beginning the day in prayer for our precious children at the weekly Moms In Touch meeting

*lingering over a cup of coffee with a dear friend, sharing hearts and faith and laughter

*hearing my aunt and two uncles sing “Happy Birthday” to me over the phone from Pennsylvania, as they have done every year of my life

*smiling at the sight of one of my all-time favorite birthday presents from Ida Mae: my laughing moose:

With a simple turn of a switch, he  emits huge belly laughs  while rolling all around. It is perfectly fitting since laughter defines our relationship.

*catching a glimpse of my sweet girl from the window as she stood outside on the deck, drenched in the spring sunshine, strawberry-blonde hair blowing freely in the wind, smiling for the camera as she took a self-portrait

*picking my son up from track practice; face flushed from a good workout, chatting excitedly about all he is learning from his coaches and looking forward to the upcoming season

“How long do I really have to figure out how to live full of grace, full of joy…before these beautiful children fly the coop and my mothering days fold up quiet?”–Ann Voskamp

*a fresh new journal from my dear friend-who-is-like-a-sister, Destiny…a place to record treasured moments from my life…as well as the myriad of ways that Jesus makes Himself known and visible to me every single day

*having a sweet conversation with the wonderful woman who gave birth to me all those years ago and found herself suddenly cast as the parent to one of the strongest-willed children ever to walk this earth…and has the gray hairs and battle scars to prove it! 🙂

*enjoyed a delicious dinner with Doug (who happily served as cook!), the kids, and my brother Jeff

*and speaking of Jeff, he wins the Best Brother of the Year award because he gave me one of these as a birthday gift:

For a bookaholic like me, this is a perfect gift! I initially resisted because I love the feel of a solid book in my hands but I am told that I will love this new technology. I can’t wait to download my first book! Any suggestions?

I am a blessed woman who is rich in all the ways that truly matter.

Life is good. 🙂

“Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”–Kafka














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Smile on Aisle Five

In light of this post and of course, this one, I no longer see any day as “ordinary.”

I have discovered that when I live a life of gratitude for even the smallest things, the world around me comes alive with a joy that shimmers…and dances…and celebrates…and beckons me to take one step further…because there is always more.

Joy can be found even at a Marshalls store on a Saturday afternoon.

My daughter was on a hunt for the perfect pair of jeans.

Two trips to two stores on Friday afternoon with me had yielded no results, so hopes were high on the ride to  the local Marshalls.

The ride itself is a beautiful one, courtesy of the majestic mountain views. I took it all in as the four of us joked, laughed, and discussed current events while eighties music played in the background.

Doug, Josh, and I finished our shopping well before Julia did, so we all met up in the ladies department. She had found the jeans fairly early so now the search was on for some cute tops.

I did not offer to help because when I had tried to do so the previous day, holding up what I thought was darling for her approval, I was met with such comments as:

“That is hideous!”


“You’re kidding, right?”

(All of these comments were made with copious eye rolling, followed by a plea to be allowed to shop in peace).

So, it was with great interest that I watched Doug walk over to Julia, stand beside her, and begin to go through the racks.

I called out, “What are you doing?”

Smiling, he looked over at me and said simply, “I’m helping.”

Julia’s face registered initial surprise, followed by a big smile as she allowed her dad to offer assistance.

I was so touched by that moment.

It was so small…but so significant.

I whispered a prayer of thanks to God for the gift that my husband is to our children. But especially for the gift that he was giving to our daughter in that moment.

I love that he cares…not just about the big things, but the little ones too.

I love that he– a soon-to-be 48 year old man who knows nothing of teenage fashion–was willing to try simply because if it was important to our daughter, it was important to him.

A tiny smile continued to play on Julia’s face as she and her dad searched side by side.

It was an endearing sight.

Eventually the perfect top was added to the perfect jeans, birthday money was spent…and a sweet memory was made.

Never underestimate the power of a small gesture…sometimes that speaks louder than a grand one.

(By the way, I did feel slightly better that nothing Doug chose made the cut either.) 🙂

Do not disdain the small. The whole of life…is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole.”–Ann Voskamp


Filed under Friends and Family, Joy

A Sacred Vocation

Josh and Julia

“Co-laboring over the sculpting of souls is a sacred vocation, a humbling privilege.”–Ann Voskamp

I have become one of those moms.

The kind who finds herself staring longingly at babies and toddlers with a sweet rush of nostalgia…followed by an urge to admonish the mother to cherish this precious time because it ends all too soon, like sand rushing through an hourglass.

That is exactly what earnest older moms would tell me when Josh and Julia were little.

I would smile politely, not believing a word of it.

But, oh how true those well-meaning words were.

I did catch glimpses of it. I distinctly remember one afternoon pulling into the parking lot at McDonalds in our small Rhode Island town. Each Tuesday, my friends and I would take the kids to McDonald’s for craft time. The kids were taught fun crafts while the moms had the chance to enjoy some coffee and adult conversation. Then we would all walk across the parking lot to the bookstore at the mall for “Storytime with Miss Lisa.” One golden spring morning, I held their small hands as we walked into the restaurant, listening to their excited chatter  and thought to myself, “Treasure these days. They won’t come again.”

Now that my children are teenagers, it would be easy to romanticize those days of diapers,  long nights and early mornings, sippy cups, spilled milk, sticky hands, boo-boos, car seats, high chairs, and play dates. To some extent, time does blur those memories. However, I know several young women who are in that stage right now and I easily recognize the exhaustion, the tired smiles, the  seemingly never-ending attempt to juggle so many roles with some degree of success.

During Bible study this week at my church, several precious young moms honestly shared the common struggles of young motherhood…particularly in a culture that tends to downplay and even deride the choice of those who choose to stay at home to raise their children.

I will never forget going out to dinner one evening with one of my husband’s work colleagues and his wife. Neither of them had children and both were enjoying thriving careers. Once they discovered that I was a stay-at-home-mom, their interest in me visibly waned. The conversation turned at one point to previous jobs…but they never even asked me what my backround was. They simply saw me as a mom and that was all…they dismissed me.

It stung.

I wanted to defend my decision…to tell them that I possessed a masters degree, that I had lived 30 years before I had my first child…that I had had a life.

Yet…THIS was LIFE:

a full life:

a joy-filled life:

Julia, Uncle Jeff, Josh, Doug, me

Josh, Doug, Uncle Jeff, Julia, Grandma

It is a life filled with such precious moments that I would not change one second of it…even the most difficult. And it IS difficult…there is no denying that. It is the hardest, most demanding  job most of us will ever do.

I spoke with a young mom last night whose husband is involved in a thriving ministry. Almost daily, he receives voluminous letters and emails thanking him for the amazing ways he has impacted lives. This is good and right, as he has been given an incredible opportunity to pour out his many gifts for the sake of building others up in their faith.

However, no one sends her effusive emails thanking her for the many hours she spends driving, cooking, wiping runny noses, helping with homework, mediating sibling disputes, doing mountains of laundry, teaching, reading, giving baths…all the many roles involved in being a mom.

Yet…and most importantly…there is One who sees:

*the daily choice to die to self

*the opportunities to lovingly pour out all one has and is for the sake of another’s developing eternal soul

*the many joys along the way…as well as the many tears


He applauds.

He esteems.

He rejoices.

He rewards.

He sees you today, young mom. Treasure these moments…because I promise you, when these  hard and joyous days are over and live on only in your memory, you will miss them. So, fully enter the moment, experience it all and give thanks for the gift of your children.

“Children are the hands by which we take hold of heaven.”–Henry Ward Beecher


Filed under Devotions

Weekend Moment: Josh at 15

Yesterday was my son Josh’s 15th birthday.

This is a photo of him when he was fifteen months old.

Where has the time gone?!

When he was 19 months old, his sister Julia was born. When Doug brought him to the hospital to meet her, I greeted him and said, “Josh, this is your sister!” He leaned in to take a good look at her and said with great enthusiasm, “Hi Sister!” To this day, that is what he calls her. He has never called her Julia…just “Sister.” Oddly enough, my mom’s brother called her “Sister” which was later shortened to just “Sis”, so I suppose Josh is carrying on a family tradition. 🙂

Today, he is nearly 6′ tall. He runs 5K races and is my workout partner at the gym. Soon his dad and I will be sitting in the stands cheering him on when he competes with his high school track team. He loves playing Airsoft with his buddies, camping, and hiking  the many mountains near our home.

He plays the clarinet, the oboe, the piano, and the bass guitar and enjoys playing in both the high school band and a community band called New Horizons. This thrills me, as I have no musical talent whatsoever. I love the sound of his music filling the house.

Even as a young teenager, Josh has a strong sense of self and is fiercely independent. He was an extremely strong willed toddler which made for some major parenting challenges. However, it has been wonderful to see all that energy now directed toward what he is passionate about, producing a focused, self-directed, and goal-oriented young man.

His sense of humor and dead-on impressions keep us laughing.

He sees much of life through the lens of his camera. Last summer, he had his first paid gig as a videographer at a local wedding. I will never forget watching him walk out the front door wearing his suit, holding a tripod, with two camera cases slung over each shoulder. He looked so professional. My little boy was growing up.

I am so proud of him. It is a joy to be his mom.

“Son, you outgrew my lap, but never my heart.” —Author unknown


Filed under Weekend Moments


Dad at 13 playing baseball on his street

My dad, Ralph, was born on March 10, 1931 in Donora, PA.  He would have been 80 years old today.

He was the youngest of six children, was passionate about baseball and dreamed of being a pilot. Due to his bad eyesight, that wasn’t meant to be but he did join the Air Force during the Korean War and was stationed in the Philippines. The photos below were taken on the base:

Following his time in the service, he obtained his college degree at the University of Pittsburgh. Shortly after that, he met my mom Mabel on a blind date, and they married on June 16, 1962:

My dad adored my mom. Toward the end of his life, he shared with me that after nearly 40 years of marriage, he still couldn’t get over the fact that such a beautiful lady had been interested in him. I can still remember the faint sound of wonder in his voice and the faraway look in his eyes as he recounted their wedding day.  It was such a sweet moment.

I came along three years later in 1965. Here I am surely impressing him with my mad guitar skillz:

Dad and me

The 70s produced endless opportunities for cringe-worthy clothing, as this photo clearly displays:

I’m not so sure my dad would be happy that I have posted that photo on the world wide web, but this is actually one of the more mild ones that I could have chosen! As I recall, that leisure suit was powder blue. My dad was obviously very secure in his masculinity. 🙂

I loved to hear my dad laugh. Sometimes he would laugh so hard that tears would  just stream down his face. I have that in common with him. This is one of my very favorite photos of him because it so captures his personality. He could spin a story like nobody else:

Another thing my dad was famous for was The Christmas Pants.

Anyone reading this who shared holidays with us is smiling right now because this was always a highlight of the day.

My dad was well-known for being a snazzy dresser. (with the exception of the above 70s photo, obviously). However, on Christmas Day 1987, he made a huge fashion faux-pas when he inexplicably decided to wear plaid pants paired with a shirt that had a wide horizontal stripe emblazoned across the chest. We were all incredulous that he would wear that shirt with those pants and teased him mercilessly all day long. By the end of the day, he vowed that he would wear those same pants every Christmas for the rest of his life…and he did!

Right before coming downstairs on Christmas Day, he would loudly announce: ” The Christmas Pants are about to make their appearance!” Then he would descend the stairs with great pomp to cheers and clapping. It was all just silly fun but we looked forward to it every year. In the photo below, my dad is modeling the famous pants with my mom and our son Josh, who was five:

In 1994, Dad retired as the head of human resources for a branch of the Department of Energy. He was deeply respected by his co-workers as a man of integrity, who was tough but fair, and saw and nurtured potential in his employees. He was excellent at his job because he  was deeply perceptive. He could read people like no one else I’ve ever known. Within five minutes of meeting anyone, he had their number and he was always right. It was almost eerie.

This came in very handy when I brought Doug home to meet my parents for the first time. It didn’t take Dad long to pull me aside and say, “This guy is all right.” I couldn’t have asked for a better vote of confidence. (Not that I had any doubt!).  🙂

Dad was so proud to walk me down the aisle. He knew I would be in excellent hands.

One of the great joys of Dad’s life was becoming a grandfather. Julia had him totally wrapped around her little finger.

Dad and Julia on a bike path in RI

In 2002, my dad began to experience shortness of breath, so he went to the doctor to have a stress test. The results were shocking. Only 20% of his heart was working. None of us could believe it. Dad was a lifelong health nut…he exercised daily, watched what he ate, and took a ton of vitamins. He was the last one we would suspect of having a bad heart.

This was on a Friday and the plan was for Dad to have a bypass operation first thing that Monday morning. We were in New Hampshire and couldn’t get home to Pittsburgh in time. So, that Sunday night, Dad and I had a tearful phone conversation. Knowing the risk of surgery, we didn’t know if this would be our last conversation, so we said everything that needed to be said.

At one point, I told him that I was pretty sure I needed him on earth more than Jesus needed him in Heaven.

I could hear the smile in his voice when he said, “It’s a win-win for me. If I survive the surgery, I get to continue enjoying my wonderful life. And if I die, I go to live with Jesus. See? Win-win.”

He never did have the surgery. Once in the operating room, they realized  that his heart was so badly damaged that he would not survive an operation. So, they sent him home and put him on a regimen of strong drugs in hopes that those drugs would build his heart up to a point where he could have a bypass.

He was released the week before Thanksgiving, so Doug and I made the decision to take the kids and go home to Pittsburgh for the holiday. We spent all of Thanksgiving week staying at my childhood home. My dad looked more frail than he ever had but he was in excellent spirits.

It was a wonderful week. I spent a lot of time with Dad. He shared memories with me that I had never heard before and I asked him a million questions. I think that deep down, we all knew time was short.

Thanksgiving Day dawned bright and sunny and to this day, I remember the laughter. We laughed all day long, especially after all the relatives arrived. I had the videotape going all day long, intent on capturing as many moments as I could. When I watched that tape later, I could see that Dad was quieter than he usually was. At one point, I left the machine running as we sat around the table. I didn’t notice it at the time, but the tape revealed that as he sat at his customary spot at the head of the table, he eyes rested purposefully and thoughtfully on each face, as if he was trying to memorize us, especially his grandchildren.

The next morning, my family and I left early to head back to New Hampshire. As I hugged him one last time before we hit the road, I said, “Bye, Dad.”

He smiled at me, shook his head, and said, “Let’s not say goodbye. Let’s just say ‘see you later’.'” He told everyone that he loved us and we were on our way.

That was the last conversation I had with my dad. He had a massive heart attack later that day and never recovered.

My mom later related that as he had finished his breakfast that morning, “Amazing Grace” came on. He listened for awhile and said, “I love that song” before going into the family room for the final time.

And it is precisely because of the amazing grace of our beautiful God that I will see my dad again when we meet in Heaven.

This is the last photo taken of my dad. I took this on a Tuesday and he had his heart attack that Friday:

(If you look closely, you can see Julia hiding next to the sofa). 🙂

He has been gone for nearly nine years now and I miss him everyday. I miss his sense of humor, his advice, his stories, his seemingly endless knowledge of trivia, his incredible wisdom. To this day, I regret that I didn’t speak at his funeral. I wanted to but I just didn’t have it in me at the time. So, this is my way of honoring my dad’s memory in a way that I didn’t  get to do on that day.

The most amazing thing happened just as I was finishing this post.

My dad loved to sing. He had a deep, rich voice and he sang constantly. One of his all-time favorites was the classic song “Smile” by Nat King Cole. I have so many memories of him singing that tune.

I had just finished writing about how much I miss him…when one of the contestants on American Idol began to sing… “Smile.”

I froze and immediately began to weep. It was as if Dad had literally just walked into the room. The TV singer’s voice faded and all I “heard” was my dad singing.  I just sat still and let the tears fall.

Smile though your heart is aching

Smile even though it’s breaking

When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by

If you smile through your fear and sorrow

Smile and maybe tomorrow

You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness

Hide every trace of sadness

Although a tear may be ever so near

That’s the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what’s the use of crying?

You’ll find that life is still worthwhile…if you just smile.

I will close this post with a photo of the lady who made my dad smile more than anyone:

Happy birthday Dad! I love you. And I can’t wait to see you again.


Filed under Tribute To My Dad