With Father’s Day this Sunday not a day goes by that I don’t miss my father. I wish you all could have met both of my parents as they truly were amazing people. Daddy was a steel worker and Mom was a home maker. We often didn’t have money and at times we had to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ when money was extra tight. There were times we couldn’t pay all of the bills so we’d pay what we could. Well okay, they’d pay what they could. I just was a little kid at the time.
The thing is, even though we were so poor I wouldn’t change a thing about my childhood. The lessons and skills they taught me led me to be the person I’ve become. And yes their teachings lead me to this, The Kitchen Whisperer. They taught me to never give up, that hope exists for a reason. That even if I don’t reach that goal there is more value in trying and not succeeding than never trying at all.
God I have so many wonderful memories of my father growing up. Like the time I swatted a freshly made sandwich out of his hand and whacking it across the floor only to have the dog eat it before he could save it. See I was really little and my Mom only ever made white bread (God she made THE BEST white bread). Well she made Jewish Rye the one time (the bread that has the caraway seeds in it). Thing is I had never seen this before and I can remember my one brother telling that it was ants in the bread. So when I saw my father go to bite down on the sandwich I jumped up and smacked it out of his hand wailing it across the floor only to have the dog engulf it. I can vividly remember the look of anger on my Dad’s face only to hear him say sternly “Lori Ann, why did you do that???” With tears in my eyes I looked up at him and said I didn’t want him to eat ants and get sick. He was puzzled and then I explained what my brother had told me. Needless to say my brother got a butt whoopin for that one.
I was my Daddy’ shadow needless to say. When he went down to the garage to work on our car I was right there with him, dirt covered cheeks and thinking the air hose was the greatest invention known to man kind! Since we had a dirt/red dog driveway I was in charge of keeping the dirt where he worked cleared. Which meant it kept me occupied for hours and out of his hair while he worked.
As a kid I was ornery to say the least. I was always into something and 99% of the time it was something I wasn’t supposed to be in. Like I had this fascination with putty in the garage. That bright pink stuff that was sticky and just funky. I can’t tell you how much of that stuff I ruined just playing in it. Daddy used to let me help him work on cars – meaning I got to play in the grease and step on the brakes when he was changing them. Now mind you I was just a wee kid and had to slouch all the way down in the car seat just to reach the pedals. And yes, I was that bad kid that every time his head was under the hood I’d “accidentally” beep the horn… 3-10 times watching him conk his head while I giggled but apologized. Told you I was bad!
Daddy was a manly man but had a soft spot for us girls. God if I had a dollar for every time he’d play dress up with me and let me put makeup on him and have tea parties. Daddy would sit on the floor with me and play Barbies for hours or just lay there while I combed his hair and put it up in curlers over and over. I’m surprised I didn’t make him bald for how I would tug on his hair with the comb or make him blind when I’d try to put mascara on him.
I can remember the one time he drove my Mom to bingo and I went with him. On the way home we stopped and got Orange Push-ups and then came home. He laid on that floor for 2 hours while I put blue eye shadow on him (up past his eye brows), blush that went clear into his hair line and hooker red lipstick. I got some of Mom’s clip on earrings and he even let me paint his nails. Then it was time to go pick her up only my Dad didn’t care what people would say because he knew it made me giggle knowing he was going to leave the house like that just to get her. When we went to pick her up the look of shock on her face was priceless. She went to get in the car, stopped and looked at him and went to back out apologizing for getting in the wrong car. THEN my dad let out his jovial belly laugh and her head darted back in immediately with mouth agape.
Daddy said “C’mere Mama, give your sexy man a smooch!” and he puckered up. The belly laugh they both let out was priceless. But that… it was stuff like that that made my dad amazing. He didn’t care what people thought or said though God help you if you crossed him or any of us. Oh hell no. Daddy was in your face and would put you in your place immediately. Dad taught us to not take crap and to stand up for ourselves. Being as poor as we were kids made fun of us because we couldn’t afford new things. What we weren’t rich in money, we were rich in everything else – honor, integrity and respect.
I was Daddy’s little Princess (as was my sister) but I can admit it that I was the most spoiled. Since I was a surprise 9 years after the last kid was born I was spoiled rotten. Every day my Dad drove me to and from the bus stop all through out school. Now it was a decent walk and all but surely manageable. But every day he drove me and picked me up. Although I can remember that one day in 7th grade he didn’t pick me up; my 2nd brother did. Daddy had his first heart attack. I was 12 years old and it felt like my entire world went upside down. Daddy’s aren’t supposed to get hurt but that night when I went into the hospital.. that’s an image I’ll never forget. Daddy was human after all.
Now after his first heart attack I was fortunate to have him around 10 years so I learned at a very early age not to take him or Mom for granted. We’d sit and talk for hours about anything – cars, boys, poker, school, why worms exist, music… anything. I wasn’t afraid to ask why or how. He taught me, along with my Mom and grandma, how to navigate in the kitchen. How to make something out of nothing. That flour, eggs, milk were some of my best tools in the kitchen. That if you have the basics you can create just about anything.
Now from the time I started 5th grade all through high school I was in the band (yeah band geek) playing the saxophone. Now originally I didn’t want to play it as that was a “boys” instrument. Girls played the clarinet or the flute; not the sax. But we couldn’t afford one but the school had a sax I could use for free so I went with that. At first I was really hesitant with it but pretty soon I fell in love with it and from that very first time I played “Mary had a little lamb” to playing in jazz ensembles he stood there listening and cheering me on. At first yeah he’d make that squinched up “OMG how did she make the sax make that sound on purpose??” to “WOW how can she make it sound so beautiful?” Daddy stood by me. So many nights he’d sit there in my bedroom on my bed listening to me play for hours. I can remember playing for him as I got older (and significantly much better) him sitting there on the edge of my bed or desk chair eyes closed lost in the music. It was as if the music was touching his soul.
I can remember my first year I went to States (for music). It was a 3-day event where the elite of the elite high school musicians went to play, practice, learn and put on this huge concert. I was so unbelievably scared because this was huge.. like close to 1000 people concert and I had a pretty involved sax solo. One thing you may not realize about me is that I’m actually pretty shy. No, really I am. No seriously I AM. LOL When I’m put in a situation where I’m in the spot light I get bashful. I’m not one for the limelight (call it fears of being picked on all those years for my weight). And knowing all of those eyes were on me scared me to death. All through practice I kept missing my timing and you could tell the nerves got the best of me.
Before the concert I told my Dad I was going to have someone else do the solo; that I couldn’t do it. He sat me down and said “My daughter doesn’t know the word can’t. Who are you? She can do anything she wants. Where’s my daughter that worked so hard to get to just here?” So we talked some more and he said something to me that I will never ever forget. He said “Honey, right before your solo happens I want you to close your eyes and just listen to the music. You know how when you play how I close my eyes and just listen? Do you know why I do that?” When I said no he said “I do that because that is all mine. You are giving me that gift to me. It’s so personal and so perfect. So tonight give me that gift again. Close your eyes, imagine it’s just us, you and I in this great big room and you’re playing for me.”
So when we launched into that song I could feel the nerves build up but then I looked out and saw my Dad. He stood up and closed his eyes to listen. I closed my eyes and as I played it was just us in that great big room. The notes just came out not from the sax but from my soul. When I was done the applause was overwhelming but all I could hear was my Dad.
Now I wasn’t exactly a perfect angel as a kid. I didn’t get in trouble so much as I was a spoiled brat (see family I can admit it). I got more than the others; not because they loved me more (well okay they did. See they screwed up on the other 5 of my siblings and then once they had me they realized they made the perfect child and stopped… LOL yeah THAT’s gonna get my whooped for sure!) but it was because I was that ‘accident’ if you will. See my Mom had had her tubes tied and along came my sister and brother. Then 9 years later as my Mom was playing softball she started complaining if stomach pains. Well she finished the game and went to the doctors the next day. Low and behold she come to find out she was pregnant with yours truly… 8 months pregnant to be exact!
But just because I was spoiled that didn’t mean I could get away with murder. Oh no. I got my butt whooped many a times. I was that smart mouth kid that thought she knew everything. See it was rough for me being so much younger than my siblings. Living in a very, VERY small neighborhood I really didn’t have friends my age to play with. There were a few local kids that I would hang out with from time to time but more often than not it was just me. So that’s where Dad (and Mom) came in to play. They encouraged me to learn, to be creative and to just ask questions. When they’d have friends over for poker night I was allowed to play (quarter, dime, nickel). When they had highballs and other booze I had my own drink (ginger ale with sherbert).
When I went away to college Daddy called me every Sunday night, even though it was a toll call he would talk with me for hours. Even though we didn’t have the money to really afford those calls he still found a way.
Sadly when I was 22 my Dad passed away and that was one of the hardest things in my life. It’s hard for any child to lose a parent but after losing my Mom when I was 18 this was more than I could bear. So even now, 23 years later, it’s still really hard around these holidays, his birthday and various days however I still feel him with me. I can still hear his laugh, smell his cologne and see that twinkle in his eye. He’s up there in heaven with Mom and my grandma watching over me waiting for that day I join them to play my sax again for just him.
If you’re like me, you like to show your love at times through an amazing meal. Why not make them one of these 16 Dad-Worthy Recipes? Every image above links to you to the corresponding recipe.
So this Father’s day hug your father a little longer, tell him Thank You and that you love him. And to those Moms, Uncles, Siblings or family member that have stepped up to take on that Father role – show them how much you appreciate them. A warm embrace and simple heartfelt thank you means more than you know