First I would like to wish a very Happy Fathers Day to all the Dads out there (and to the many single moms who are going it alone raising their kids). Fathers Day has always been a pretty low key holiday for me even being a Dad. My idea of a great Fathers day is trying to get all 4 of my kids together along with my wife and spend some good quality family time. I'm happy to say that to date we've always succeeded in that quest and we've had many happy Fathers Day Memories.
Fathers Day 2013 ended up being just a little different for me. I started out the weekend on Saturday performing just my 2nd show in ages at the Yachtstock River Jam. It was a short set but it felt great to be up on a real stage again, and the crowd was very receptive despite me being just a little rusty :) Then on Fathers Day morning I was playing a brunch show at a local venue where I had performed previously many times in the past. At this point I hadn't yet called my Dad in Florida to wish him a happy Fathers Day. I figured it would be best to call him sometime in the afternoon when he was sure to be home. It would be even better because my kids would all be with me and we could wish him a Happy Fathers Day together on the phone.
My parents had moved 20 years earlier retiring to Florida and we rarely got to spend special holidays together. I knew my Dad would be watching his "newly" adopted Tampa Bay Rays baseball team battle it out that afternoon on TV (unless of course my parents had tickets for that particular game and then I'd have to wait until early evening to reach him)
For the 15 years prior to moving to Florida, my parents were devoted Philadelphia Phillies fans, going to many games, following the team relentlessly on TV and radio and rejoicing when the Phillies finally won their World Series in 1980. So it was a fun rivalry when in 2008 both the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays made it to the World Series. I told my parents they couldn't lose because either way one of their teams was going to win. My Dad wouldn't have any of it as he had completely converted to a Tampa Bay fan. So of course he was a little miffed when the Phillies took the World Series that year for just the second time in Phillies history. I did get him a Tampa Bay World Series hat and he proudly wore it whenever he was out doing yard work in the hot Florida sun.
I'm sad to say that I never got to wish my Dad a happy Fathers Day last year. It turned out my sister had been urgently trying to reach me that morning when I was in the middle of playing music for the brunch crowd. When I finally got to the parking lot I saw that I had some missed calls. I called her back and the first words that came out of her mouth left me stunned and unable to speak. "Daddy died this morning" was what she said. I yelled out something unintelligible and shoved the phone into my wife's hand who was sitting next to me. Needless to say, after that it was a Fathers Day that I would never forget.
As I'm sitting here thinking about it now, I'm remembering that since my parents had retired to Florida in 1992 we had never spent Fathers Day or Mothers Day with them. We had visited them probably 25-30 times over that 20 year span including Easters, Christmases and many different birthdays. A few of my most special visits include my Mom making me a birthday cake when we visited for my birthday one year long after she had stopped making cakes, visiting for a few Easters and having the Easter Bunny visit us in Florida and visiting for a few Christmases with Santa Claus also having to figure out where we were. I also really enjoyed watching my Mom sing in the Choir for those Easter and Christmases that we visited.
Probably my two most favorite visits with my Mom and Dad together happened in the last few years. When my Dad turned 80 all of my siblings and I made it down together to help him celebrate. We wanted to surprise him and just show up, but in the end we had my Mom break the news to him prior as we didn't want to set his heart off that morning. The most memorable visit to my Mom and Dad in Florida was the last one before he passed. My wife, two daughters and I went down the day after Christmas 2012 and we took my parents to see the Holiday Lights Celebration in St. Augustine, Florida. This was something my Mom had always wanted to see but by this time my parents no longer took car trips that were more than an hour away.
Christmas time in St. Augustine was a bit chilly especially for my parents who had long become Floridians and would starting feeling cold when the temperature dropped below 70. My Dad was such a trooper that night as we went around on an open window bus so he and my Mom could see all the beautiful holiday light displays throughout St. Augustine's downtown. I could tell the cold was really bothering him, but he wanted to press on and see everything we could see before we turned back to the warmth of our own car.
My Dad had longstanding heart issues and several years ago had decided not to do another bypass surgery (and by this time there was no reversing that decision). So for the last several years his symptoms had verrry slowly worsened. But despite a few scares along the way he had lived a very happy existence with my Mom those last several years and had enjoyed most everything that was important to him. Still though I was shocked back to reality when I spoke to my sister last Fathers Day morning. My Dad never wanted to go out in a sickly manner in a hospital room (too many long hospital visits as a sick teen). When a doctor would suggest more tests or a hospital stay during his last few years, my Dad would have nothing of it. He wanted to live life his way for the last years however many they would be. When my Dad passed he was doing one of his favorite morning past-times, playing solitaire on his back porch before the June temperature got too hot.
While I greatly miss my Dad and was extremely sad at his passing, I was comforted to know that he went out the way he wanted to..no muss, no fuss and he made sure it was on a day that our family would never forget.
To help remember all of our Dads today, I'll leave you with two of my favorite songs about Dads. Eric Clapton wrote "My Fathers Eyes" as a tribute to his Dad who he never got to meet.
And lastly, Luther Vandross co-wrote and released "Dance With My Father" remembering his Dad who passed away when he was just 7.
Wishing you all a very Happy Fathers Day this weekend - Go out and enjoy this time with your Dads and Family and make some fun memories today!
Peace, Love and Laughter
~Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com