My father passed away in 2008. He was 61 years old and a total pain in the ass. I say that like he was my problem, he wasn't. He was the least of my problems which, is probably a problem.
Growing up my father and I had a great relationship. I remember watching wrestling with him, laughing at ridiculous sitcoms with him and running around outside while he did yard work or worked on the family cars or cleaned the pool or grilled on our back porch.
The man could fix anything. He wasn't a skilled craftsman per say, but he was a master of the patch-job. He could MacGyver a bandaid for anything and he always knew exactly what needed to be done. He knew about cars, basic plumbing, lawn maintenance, pool maintenance, I mean the list goes on. He was a no frills kind of guy. Literally, frills made the man visibly uncomfortable. You want information from my father? Make him wear a suit for 18 hours, he'll sing like a canary if it means he gets to put on shorts. His idea of a good day is one in which he could get his hands dirty and then drift off to sleep in front of the tv.
When he first met my grandmother and one of my aunts, he came to the door shirtless, sweaty and wearing ripped, paint-stained jean shorts. That was my dad.
He was the Crew Leader for the custodians at the local middle school and I used to love having the privilege of walking around the school after hours. It was seriously the coolest freaking thing. Everyone knew my dad because he was the one they would need to contact if anything happened. The lunch ladies used to fawn all over my sister and I and give us free cartons of chocolate milk whenever we went into the kitchen to say hello. All of the teachers knew him and loved him and my sister and I felt like a couple of badasses 'cause we were his daughters.
It was when he got injured at work and was forced into retirement that things changed dramatically. I was just entering into puberty; the asshole teenager stage and he was around ALL the time. Mind you, he wasn't a dick, he really wasn't. I had heard stories from friends about how their dad removed their bedroom door because he didn't trust them; listened as kids at school would gossip about someone's dad hitting them or hearing how someone's dad walked out on their family. Dad wasn't like that.
He was just home all the time. And he was bored. So when the rest of us were around, he was all up in our shit just looking for a little attention. But as an asshole teenager I wanted none of it. Combine that with the normal crap families argue about: money, homework, chores; and things suddenly became very tense.
My father had two children from a previous marriage that he really had no relationship with. He was told to stay away and so he did; but that gave him the desire to try harder, I think, with my sister and I. He didn't want to be "the dad" he wanted to be that cool guy that everyone liked. And he was-he was called "Smiling Ron" by everyone that had worked with him-they even gave him a hat proudly displaying the nickname. But I just thought he was annoying, not fake but, I just wasn't on the bandwagon. People would always tell me how much they loved him, how funny he was, what a great guy they thought my dad was and I totally took that shit for granted. It's cliche to say it now, it really feels cliche to say it, but I did. I completely took him for granted and now I miss him, terribly so.
Right after he passed away, my mother had spoken to me about some things my sister had gone through a few years earlier. She mentioned that while my sister had been diagnosed with and was working on living with Bipolar disorder, my mother came to realize that my father most definitely had it too. That realization completely sucked for me. My father was Bipolar and that would have been a game changer had we only discovered this before he died. I would've approached things so differently. I would've understood why he said and did the things he had done, rather than find them annoying and get pissed off and dismiss him altogether like I did all too often, But it was too late and holy hell does it suck to think about.
The past two years have been insane for me, a lot of change and a lot of ventures into things I know fuck-all about. And all of it has done nothing but make me think of my dad. I started working at the local mill in town in 2012 and discovered that one of my coworkers had actually worked with my father back when I was in elementary school. His name was Dwight and though he and my father worked together for only a year or so-two tops, he still remembered my father and spoke fondly of him. Dwight was killed in a totally random accident when he was out riding his bike one day and it broke my heart. He was a really nice guy who worked really hard and saying goodbye to him felt like saying goodbye to my dad again.
The following year I moved into my first home and went through 12 months of typical first time homeowner stress that everyone faces in their lives. Everytime something new would come up, a new issue, a new bill, and new repair: I thought of dad. He would've been the first person I called to handle any of it. The first person I would've asked for advice. I like doing things myself but I hate knowing that he's gone and that I have to struggle and figure it all out on my own when he would've known what to do immediately in every situation. And he would've loved it. He would've loved every phone call, every text, every Facebook update (holy shit my dad would've gone crazy with Facebook!) and he would've shown up if and when I needed him every time.
I got my love of gossip from my father. My social-butterfly gene. Also my love of all things pop culture. And my love of arguing. Not arguing to be some asshole, but saying what needs to be said regardless of who can hear you because, most of the time dammit, it's regarding something everyone should hear. I also inherited his no frills attitude. Sure, I like to feel pretty and put together, but I'm most uncomfortable in formal settings of any and every kind.
I was speaking with a friend of mine about Comic Con and my love for celebrities in general and she asked me who the one celebrity was that would make me just lose it and I told her I came really close when I was in line to meet Hulk Hogan. I watched him wrestle Sargent Slaughter in New Haven when I was 8 on a trip with my dad and Dwight. I grew up with him. He was the ultimate to my father; dad thought he was cool and tough and loved that everyone loved him. I know his rep is marred now, but growing up he was a God in our household.
He's short but still gigantic!
So I'm standing in line waiting to meet "God". I had met some cast members from the Star Trek series already and I was thinking about my father. About how excited and amazed he would be to know I had spoken with LeVar Burton and William Shatner and Jonathan Frakes and that here I was, waiting to shake Hulk Hogan's hand. I thought about the house and everything I had to deal with over the past few months and I just started to tear up, right there in line surrounded by hundreds of strangers. I thought about what I would say to Mr. H once I got to the front of the line; about how I would tell him I watched him wrestle since birth, had his action figure, saw one of his matches in person and about my dad. I called my mom and told her what was going on and thankfully, she did the crying for me.
I finally got closer to the tanned giant that is the Hulkster and realized that Jimmy Hart, the self proclaimed "Mouth of the South" was up there with him too. This guy hadn't been involved in the WWE in years, I hadn't seen him on TV since I was ten or eleven and holy shit, there he was. I met him first, shook his hand and told him that I grew up watching him as he signed my autograph. I then met Hulk Hogan. I told him how much I liked him, that I watched all of his shows and asked him about his family which he genuinely seemed to appreciate. As I was leaving he made sure to mention Jimmy was signing autographs too and when I told him I had already received one he told me to "make sure I still had my wallet" and I walked away beaming and thought, oh man, dad would've thought that was hysterical!
Now, my father was still a pain in the ass. But I'm grown and going through grown shit, and I do wish he were around to talk to and to see who my sister and I have become. I know he'd be pretty proud.