I sit here in front of my computer, knowing that I need to write something. I always write something on this date. I prepared. I did not bother to put on my eye makeup, knowing full well that it would be washed away by tears. Yes, there they are already – making it difficult to see the computer screen.
What will I write? What can I write? Nothing is good enough for the best man I have ever known and, yet, doing nothing is not an option because he deserves my best…even if it is not good enough. He deserves my perfect imperfection. After all, he is the one who gave it to me.
It was nineteen years ago today that my father died instantly – and unexpectedly – from a heart attack. I was thirty-one years old, and my world would never be the same. The loss of a parent is something that you never really come back from…nor should you.
THIS IS HIM
If I had to describe my father in one sentence, which would be very difficult, I would have to say imagine that Jack from This is Us and Murray from The Goldbergs morphed into one person – you know, a beautifully damaged man who adores his wife and only wants what’s best for his children, but often calls people morons (actually, he preferred the word idiot).
A wonderful mix of his Irish, English, Scottish, and New England roots with the influences of growing up during the Great Depression in a family of alcoholics, he married a first-generation Italian-American girl from upstate New York after serving in World War II.
They built a life together and were married over 50 years when he died, but he lost so many things along the way: his first child, his business, later his job, his dream home (an incredible story for another day), and so much more, but he never lost his ability to be “perfectly imperfect” (also inspired by This is Us).
Nobody is perfect, but there are those who project the illusion of perfection. My father was NOT one of those people (yes, it’s ok to laugh at that statement – I am). My Dad had his flaws, but he had the most amazing heart, and he always strived to be his absolute best for the people whom he loved. He went through life sort of like a bull in a china shop…but a somewhat considerate bull who’s self-aware. I dare say that if you met him, you never forgot him. He was the quintessential “character” who brought laughter wherever he went and filled the room, not only with his six-foot frame, but with his mere presence.
My father was quite intelligent and had many talents. There were things at which my Dad did not excel; however, I have no idea what they were because he never focused on them. Focus on what you can do and excel at it without worrying what anyone else thinks. I know it sounds like a quote but, to my knowledge, he never actually said that – he just lived it, and I learned it. I haven’t mastered it as well as he did but, then again, I wasn’t born until he was almost the age that I am now, so maybe he hadn’t mastered it at my age either.
I am a self-proclaimed and proud-to-admit-it Daddy’s Girl; however, not in the way that phrase is often used. I was never a spoiled princess. Like my siblings, my father was not easy on me. He expected excellence from his children, but that phrase conjures up horrible visions of abusive narcissists who rule their household. That absolutely was not the case with my Dad. It was simple. My Dad expected excellence from his children because he truly believed that we were excellent. My mother was encouraging, while my father was provoking, but both were operating out of love for their family and the desire to see their children be as incredible as my parents knew they could be.
While I was considering this topic today, I had an epiphany. My Dad did not just set an example for me – he gave me a gift. There are those who go through life feeling like failures or like they are “less than.” Insecurity is a horribly destructive emotion. My father gave me the gift of perfect imperfection. He instilled in me the knowledge that I should measure myself against myself; that I do not need to be flawless, but if I can always answer, “Yes” to the question, “Is that the best you could do?” then I have succeeded.
My father was the best version of himself that he could possibly be (perfect imperfection), and through his example I learned that there is beauty in the flaws if you present them in the best light possible, powered by love. I learned that if you target your strengths and strive for excellence in those areas, without any concern for your shortcomings, then you will impact the lives of your loved ones so profoundly that even nineteen years after you are gone, they will still well up with tears in their eyes and an ache in their heart at the very thought of you.
I am a lot like my father – a rough-around-the-edges, occasionally offensive, bull in the china shop of life with a heart of gold, and I will strive to achieve perfect imperfection as perfectly as my father did. Thank you, Dad. I miss your face.