Originally wrote and published this on a private site over two years ago when my father died.
My dad passed away last Saturday. This photo is from my wedding in December, we danced to Remember by Harry Nilson as our father daughter dance and cried the entire time. He sang the song horribly off key as always, which made me laugh like it always did. We talked about how when I was little I would stand on his feet to dance with him, and how much we loved each other. It was one of the most special moments of my life and I am so happy that I got to share it with him.
He was a super funny guy, boisterous and a little bit wild. One of my relatives described him as "larger than life", people always like to describe others that way, but in his case it's actually a true statement. He would do all kinds of crazy shit. Once he taught me how to give myself a tattoo with India ink, a thread and a needle, every time I saw him afterwards I'd point at the small tattooed spot on his arm and laugh. He'd howl at the moon when it was full, shave his arm with a knife to test out how sharp it was (he did this with a brand new kitchen knife that he gave me for Christmas one year), had the Coors logo painted on the bottom of his pool, drove a dirt bike off of a cliff, and had so many broken bones in his feet that the only way the doctors could tell if he had broken something new was by comparing new x-rays to old ones. He worked as an iron worker for over 40 years and worked on building the Vincent Thomas Bridge as one of his first jobs.
He taught me how to carve pumpkins, appreciate music and food, love nature, and find humor in pretty much every situation. He was constantly laughing and joking, and was one of those people who had an enormous amount of random facts stored up that he would just pull out at odd moments and surprise us all with. I was constantly asking him "How in the hell do you know about that?"
He also loved to tell stories, especially during family dinners where he'd pull out the inappropriate ones about my grandfather stitching himself up after hitting himself in the leg with an axe. Because doesn't everyone need to hear stories about gore while they're eating their ham? Every time I saw him I walked away with a new story about something hilarious that he'd done. Here's the most recent one from a couple of months ago:
Dad: "There's this guy that I know who's always talking shit about Mexicans. We were out eating at a mexican restaurant and I heard this woman tell her husband in Spanish that if she ate anymore he was going to have to carry her out the door . So I laughed. My friend asked me what I was laughing about and I explained their conversation to him. He looked at me amazed and said "You speak Spanish?" I told him, well yeah, I'm half Mexican."
Me: "Oh my god Dad. What did he do?"
Dad: "Apologized and told me I should have said something sooner."
We all laughed
Dad: "You know I don't think I'm ever going to tell him that I'm not."
This is the best angle of the beginning of the work on my right arm. We did four and a half hours on Saturday. I think it'll probably end up being somewhere around 20, my tattoo artist is pretty fast. There's another magnolia further down on my arm that you can't see in this shot.
This tattoo is sort of a memorial tattoo for my father. When it's finished it'll have three magnolias, a hummingbird, a red tailed hawk, tree blossoms, and a portrait of my mom and dad from the 60s. It's already incredibly beautiful and we're only a few hours in.
In case your curious about the background story - my dad loved birds, especially hummingbirds and hawks. Growing up we had a backyard full of fruit trees, red tailed hawks and hummingbirds. My dad and I would hang out on the back porch while he smoked and talk about life, politics, music, religion etc etc. He also told me many of his great hilarious stories out there and there was a lot of reciting and memorizing of limericks and silly tales.
And of course, we also talked about the birds. He admired the hawks for their grace, strength and swiftness, and the hummingbirds for their feistiness and willpower.
A few years ago we were sitting back there, watching the hummingbirds, and I brought up my grandfathers death. He paused and then said that he honestly felt that my grandfather had come to him to say goodbye.
"I've told so many people that story and they all think that I'm full of shit! But you know that it's true."
When I was ten we were taking a trip up the coast in our motorhome when my grandfather had a stroke. My dad decided that the best thing to do was to go back home, but I think he was dreading going back since my grandfather had told him previously that as his oldest son it was his responsibility to shoot him in the head if he ever became crippled in any way. Whatever the reason, we turned the motorhome around, headed a few miles along the Washington coast and stopped at a waterpark for the night. We were sitting inside just hanging out that night when my dad suddenly looked up and said "Grandpa just died." He looked shocked. As a 10 year old who was WAY into ghost stories and everything creepy I looked at the clock to record the time. It was 7:03.
The next morning we called the hospital. My grandfather had passed away at 7:03 pm, right when my dad had felt him say goodbye.
That's the only reason why I have any faith in any sort of afterlife at all. I clung to that story when my dad died and although my dad's death didn't have the same sort of clear connection with him being gone, I did get a very strong, suffocating urgency to get to Riverside and be with him about a half an hour before he died, and then a HUGE sense of relief that I had finally made up my mind about going to see him. I was due to give birth at any time and was stuck in San Francisco on my doctor's advice. My dad had been in the hospital for a week. I called my mom and left an overly excited crazy message about how I was going to get in the car and get down there, when she called me back I answered the phone feeling lighter then I had in weeks. Then she told me he was gone.
I think about him everyday. He was never too sure about his only daughter having tattoos, but I think he'd like this one. At the very least I know he'd greatly admire the art.