Wednesday, August 9, 2017

James Edward Mann: December 5, 1943- July 19, 2027

My dad died three weeks ago.  Three weeks since I have heard his voice, held his hand, kissed his cheek.   How is that possible?  While I need to write about grief and I will, I NEED to in order to help me process it all, this post is not about that. This post is about my dad.

I am and forever will be a Daddy's Girl. In kindergarten I told friends I wanted to marry my dad.  He was my hero, my protector, my emergency contact, my cheerleader, my check in person, the person I went to for advice in business and in life.

At one point while he was in the hospital that last time, it was just me and him.  I was sitting by his side, talking about our favorite memories, (his a time just the two of us were in NH in the snow searching for the perfect Christmas tree to cut down, mine when I called after a boyfriend had broken up with me in high school, crying and my dad asked me if I wanted him to kill the kid. "Yes daddy" I said.) We were both crying and he told me I got him through my older brother's death.  I told him "You got me through everything".  And he did.   I called him when good and bad things happened.   He was the first person I called to share good news or to share my successes. When I learned my marriage was over and I didn't think I could handle it, I called him sobbing.  I couldn't even get out words; he hung up and 10 minutes later was at my door to hold me as I sobbed.

I remember one time I was home from college, alone and found a copy of a work review from his boss.  Being nosy I read over it and remember distinctly it was the first time I realized that my dad was also a smart guy with a keen business sense who was immensely liked by his co workers and his clients. I hear people talk about learning their parents are not infallible; I remember learning my dad was exactly what I thought and even more.

My parents took us all to Jackson, Wyoming in 2006.  It was a magically perfect trip and the Tetons went from being a place I never cared to see to one of my most cherished places in the universe.  While we were there we all took turns writing in a journal about our experiences.  For Christmas that year I took them and put them all in one book and gave as presents to everyone. Last Friday I was really missing him and decided to go through lives on my coffee table but I hardly ever look at it.  I sent my brother my Dad's Favorite Memories page and just said "We are so lucky he was our Dad."

Lucky.  That is what I feel. In all the materials the hospice gave us there was always a section about coming to terms with less than perfect relationships when someone dies.  There were tips like "don't make the dying person feel guilty for disappointing you" or "consider apologizing for your part in any misunderstandings that might have come in the way of your relationship."  That wasn't us.  There is no doubt in my mind that my dad loved me and that he knew I loved him.  He told me he was proud of me too many times to remember. He raised me to believe I could do anything.  "Hey Dad, I think I want to run of marathon." "I wonder if I can do a Ironman"  "Of course you can Kitten".  I was never fast or good, but my Dad was always at the finish line, proud of me no matter how slow I was, and hugging me no matter how sweaty I was!

I never for a second ever doubted that no matter what, if I called him and told him I needed him, he would drop whatever he was doing and come to my side. I remember when I learned someone's father would not be at his wedding because he couldn't get time off work.  I couldn't believe it.  My dad would have quit his job.  No question in my mind, he would have been there. During a particularly hard time in my life my parents surprised me for my birthday, driving to Charlotte only 2 months after he had open heart surgery.  It took them 3 days to drive because he kept having to stop, but he made it because he knew I needed him there, even though I never asked.   He put our family first and was fiercely devoted to us and friends we considered family. I can remember him spending time with countless of my friends, talking to them as a surrogate father, another sounding board.  If we loved you, he loved you.  One of the nicer things since he has died is how many of my friends reached out, deeply affected by his death, taking it as hard as if he was their own father.

It has been fantastic hearing other people say all these great things about my dad; corroborating what I have felt all my life. And I don't think they are just doing the "don't say anything bad about the dead."   I was so touched when the hospice nurses commented about how nice my dad was, thanking them for their help.  He was the kind of guy that was always looking out for other people.  His needs came a distant last to those of us he loved.  On a cruise headed to formal dinner we passed a man who was holding a tie in his hand, looking lost.  My dad offered his help and tied the tie for the man who had never worn one. He was just that nice, sweet, kind person, genuinely.

And he was so funny.  So, so funny.  We had so many inside jokes in our family...we are always laughing.  Even at the end, when his oxygen mask made farting noises he made it a joke. He may have felt terrible, but he was making us laugh, saying something funny, playing with the gloves or the tiny trash can they gave him in ICU, telling completely inappropriate jokes, but making the best of the situation.  He had this sharp wit about him and was always quick with a one liner here and there. I wrote in the Jackson book that I always felt like we are part of a private club when it was just us...always laughing, the rest of the world ceasing to exist but for us.

There are too many memories, too many things to say and I feel this post is an inadequate effort, falling short in trying to put my love and admiration into words or describe all the million of ways he was the perfect dad to our family, the perfect man in my eyes. I am so thankful he was my dad, my friend. He is my judge for how a man should act and be and those are some very high standards.  He made me feel like I was the most beautiful, special person in the world and I know in his eyes I was.  The hole in my heart is immense and will never be filled.  We were lucky all the scheme of things, it was a "good death". There were no agonizing weeks of pain.  I know he loved me and I know he knew I loved him.  I was able to spend his last few days by his side, holding his hand, talking, laughing, reminiscing. We were all there with him. The last thing he ever ate was his favorite ice cream. The last text he sent me said he loved me and only wants me to be happy.   I am beyond grateful he did not suffer.  But all of  that doesn't make him being gone easier.  I am and forever will be a Daddy's Girl and will forever miss my Daddy.