Weather Helmed

an adventure in renewing the spirit and living the dream…on a sailboat

Weather Helmed

A Tale of Two Loves

January 26th, 2010 · 7 Comments · First Mates, Loss of a Parent, Thoughts on Family

On March 16, 2004, my dad died.  He had a short battle with pancreatic cancer.  Thankfully, we got to spend time with him before he died but, of course, it wasn’t enough.

The hardest part of his death has not been, surprisingly, accepting his death, but rather my failing memory – my inability to remember so much of the life I spent with him.  I can recall outrageous moments or certain attributes, but mostly only those that have been the source of family jokes and stories over the years (like the time he made such awful spaghetti even the dog wouldn’t eat it! and his habit of telling great jokes only to forget their punchlines and start laughing uncontrollably – for those of you who’ve seen me laugh so hard I cry, that’s where I get it from 🙂  )

I cannot remember, though, the IMPORTANT stuff like father-daughter conversations I know we had, funny sayings he used, or the way it felt to hug him.

They say when someone dies, all you have left are memories and yet I feel like I don’t even have those.

Just six months after his death, I went away to law school, 3000 miles from where I grew up.  One of my biggest fears was that I wouldn’t be able to “find” my dad there.  Without the context of my hometown, the mountains we explored, the stores we frequented, where would I go to experience his memory? to grieve my loss?   Law school, fortunately or unfortunately, kept me too busy to really think about all these things.

AND, my dad, too, had a funny trick to play on me, to make sure he stayed in my thoughts whether I sought out his memory or not.

In 2006, I met Matt.

My dad never got to meet Matt, but at the end of our first date, I knew without a doubt that my dad would approve.

To say that I “married my father” would be a horribly crude, inappropriate and inaccurate characterization of my most amazing husband and the most healthy relationship I’ve ever known.  BUT, I cannot deny that my life with Matt has provided many opportunities for me to reconnect with memories of my dad.

Some examples…

1)  Last summer, my brother visited the marina and toured Syzygy.  As we walked down the dock, back to the car, he smiled sympathetically at me with laughter gleaming in his eyes and said, “You know, Sis, Matt’s boat is dad’s airplane.”

Growing up, our family owned a Cessna 182.  Every weekend it wasn’t storming up in the mountains, my dad went out to the airport to tinker with the plane or talk to other pilots about planes.  Often, my brother and I were dragged down to the hangar to help or go on a trip when we would have much rather been watching cartoons.  So, this is not the first time the leading man in my life has been consumed by a money-hungry, time-sucking inanimate object.  (And, is it just coincidence or a particularly cruel joke that Jon gave us a wedding gift that included FLYING LESSONS for Matt after we get back from the sailing trip?!?!?!?!?!?!?)

2) After my dad died, I was sure I’d never have to listen to the constant squawk of ham radios ever again.  Yet, two days ago I am with Matt, wandering around a Ham Radio Outlet.  And, this past summer, Matt bought a book more or less titled, “Your Guide to Earning Your Ham Radio License.”  This proves to me that God has a nasty sense of humor and Him and my dad must really be enjoying themselves.  For yyyeeeaarrrsss my dad tried to convince my brother and me to memorize the Morse Code and get our ham licenses.  “Why?” I would ask. “There’s email and instant messaging and cell phones.  I don’t need a radio to talk to people all over the world!”  Well, guess what just happens to be one of the top hobbies of sail cruisers?????  But, DAD, if you’re listening, memorizing the Morse Code is no longer a requirement, so take that! DIT DAH.

3) My dad HATED school.  He was never “book smart” but had a knack for all things mechanical, electrical, etc.  After he retired from the Sheriff’s Department, he struggled to figure out what to do with himself.  Finally, he decided to enroll in a local trade school and get certified as a heating/cooling technician.  It was the only time I ever saw him study.  He worked *so hard.*  He got good grades, took binders and binders’ worth of notes, and passed his courses with flying colors.  Then he couldn’t get a job.  It still makes me cry.  I don’t know why it hurts my heart so much to remember this time.  I feel like maybe it was the first time I saw my dad really really really want something and work so hard for it, and then not get it.  It still just breaks my heart.

Today, Matt tells me that he really enjoys refrigeration and has considered becoming a refrigeration specialist.  Later, we are in a store and I’m surrounded by heating/cooling ducts and parts and all sorts of refrigeration supplies.  How can I NOT think of my dad?????

So, I can say with confidence that I did NOT “marry my father,” but life has lovingly conspired so that the man I did marry and love so completely unknowingly ensures I will never forget that man who first loved me.

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • Thaddeus

    What a beautiful post! Life is full of wonderful surprises like you just described, though rarely are they communicated so eloquently.

  • Lara

    My Dad loves HAM Radio too and is still trying to get me to pursue a license (I actually took the test when I was 10, but didn’t pass the Morse code portion – yep I was a nerd). Boat work often reminds me of him. Must be all of the time spent in hardware stores and the garage. There is something about the smell of sawdust, power tools, and WD-40 that reminds me of childhood and Dad. Hope the memories keep coming!

  • Ankitha

    Omg, you totally made me cry! I am so glad that you married Matt. 🙂

  • Mackenzie Thompson

    This is beautiful Karen 🙂 I lost my mom 6 years ago, and I can empathize with many of your thoughts about losing memories….I love how you are able to find your dad, in your current adventures…

  • karen

    Thaddeus – thank you 🙂

    Lara – wow! a fellow HRK (ham radio kid) 🙂 Are you going to get your license now?? I have no plans to do it although Matt might. Still no interest in learning about megahertz and radio frequencies, etc. Some things don’t change…!

    Kita~ ME TOO!!!!!

    Mackensie~ I think I vaguely remember my brother telling me something about your mom… It makes me feel better to know I’m not alone in the memories thing. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  • Shelley

    What a wonderful post, written so eloquently. It’s strange how life works out sometimes.

  • Dave/Dad

    So beautifully written, and such a wonderful tribute to your Father and to Matthew. I am an extremely proud father-in-law and father. Love D

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