Father’s Day: Saying I love you, whoever you are

My Dad, who doesn't need a wheelchair, but lets his grandson push him around in one for fun! (Photo by: Kelly Witkins)

In honor of Father’s Day, I thought I’d share a story about my father with you all.  Sure, I’ve made a Top 10 List of Things My Dad Has Done To Freak Me Out, I’ve shared about our trips to the zoo where we never actually went inside the zoo, I’ve noted the time he buried me in a snowbank and left me, and about his ongoing war with rodent control, but those stories have left most of you wondering how I managed to survive in a such a household with a crazy, forgetful, prank-pulling, window banging old man?  Easy, it’s cause I knew he loved me.

My dad, for all his flaws, the primary of which is his constant failure to remember my name, loves me.  Growing up, my dad was magical, almost like Santa Clause really, which meant, you had to stay up late in order to catch him.  He worked 18 hour days cooking and managing our family restaurant, so on rare occasions when I was allowed to stay up til Dad came home, it’s only natural I had to pounce and wrestle with him to prove he was real!  My brother and I would let his exhausted body climb into bed and pull the covers up, then ransack his room with flashlights and wrestling cries, “Ash and Smash!  Ash and Smash!” until he cried “Uncle!” in surrender.

School mornings in our house began with light switches flashing and mom hollering up the steps for us to get up.  She’d make us breakfast, and Dad would drive us to school.  As he’d pull over the car and we got out with our eyes rolling, too cool for station wagons, he would always say, “I love you kids.”

After school plays or report cards came in, Dad would be so proud, “You are so smart.  How did you get to be so smart?”

When my dad later sold the restaurant and opened up a smaller cake shop, we kids would occasionally help out washing dishes, delivering cakes, spell checking his frosting messages.  He always listened, no matter how much we blathered on, which believe me I do a lot (it’s genetic).  He always acted so impressed, so proud, and always told us he loved us.

Every phone call, every get together, it’s a hug and a kiss, and “I love you, Jess.”  One of my favorite stories my dad shared with me is about his visits with my grandpa (my mom’s father) in the assisted living home near his final days.  My grandpa lived with us for a few months during his transition of declining health and changed lifestyle.  I’ll admit it was difficult at times, with an 80-something man whose only interests are baseball and westerns, it wasn’t always easy to find things to talk about, and he came from a different generation of hard farm work.  He didn’t often say please, or thank you, let alone ‘I love you.’  And then there’s my mother, who taught us manners before we could walk!

My dad would make special trips to the assisted living center, and take my grandpa on drives while he delivered cakes, spend time talking, and before he left he’d always say, “I love you, Bill.”  For months, my grandpa never said it back.  But one day, my dad and I were driving through town and he told me how he’d been telling grandpa he loved him each day, and my grandpa finally said it back, “I love you too, Jerr’.”

I think that story explains who my father is as a human being.  He is a loving, grateful, and kind-hearted man, who occasionally forgets the names of his children, but it’s ok.  We know he loves us, whoever we are.

Tell me why your father, or father figure, is special to you.

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32 responses

  1. My father was special to me because I knew he loved me.

    1. That’s the best. No matter how they say it, you know they mean it.

  2. What a sweet story- he sounds like a lot of fun. My dad taught me to respect other people and that it was okay to be different- he still does.
    Alica

    1. It’s so easy to take lessons like that for granted isn’t it? It makes you wish everyone could grow up with a dad like yours. Glad he was so special and such an influence in your life!

  3. Wow, what a beautiful tribute to your dad. I have to say how shocked I am that the bologna/Chardonnay girl comes from a family who owned a restaurant. :-P

    My dad is like the original MacGyver. There’s nothing he can’t figure out. When I was very young, I announced at a family party that if I were stranded on a deserted island with appendicitis, I would trust him to take out my appendix. (He was a cop, not a doctor.) :-)

    1. hahaha! That’s hilarious. We’ve already established we could be roommates, I bet our dads could be too.

      And I am a pretty decent cook when I put forth the effort. I told Wendy already, watch for an upcoming recipe post soon. You’ll be a little more forgiving of the bologna incident. :P

  4. Wonderfully said Jess, no father could get a higher tribute than the one you just gave.

    My dad, grandfather, who raised me taught me discipline, ethics, morality…how to be a man. He was hard and not quick to express his love, but I knew he did. His mind is mostly gone now, but I know he will live on as long as I do, because I will forever carry all of the incredible things that he instilled into me.

    1. That’s a very lovely tribute to your dad, Gene. I know you have kids, do you have boys? I’m sure they’ll say the same remarks about you as they grow up (boys or girls!).

  5. Your post was moving indeed! I’m also grateful for my father, who we referred to as the “Absent Minded Professor”. He is still always running late.

    Late or not, I loved hanging out with him when he had gigs. He had a speaker cabinet with wheels so I would sit on top and say hi to everyone while he wheeled me around. What a rock star I was, or felt I was anyway! If I was not lucky enough to be around for the show, I would always watch tv with my mom in their bed until he came home. He would always carry me up to my bed, and I enjoyed the extra long hug I got while he toted me up the stairs.

    He is creative, kind, and loving. Most dads are the kind that show tough love and all that, but my dad is really not like that. Just like yours, he never hesitated in expressing his emotion and love for his children. I am fortunate to have a dad that said “I love you.” every time I went to bed. He also woke me up at 5 am EVERY SINGLE DAY my 4 years of high school to go to church. He never got mad that he needed to wake me, even though I had an alarm that worked. And I pressed snooze.

    Even yesterday, he dropped everything for a project I needed help on. Did I mention he had hernia surgery this week? Yeah, he’s that kind of dad.

    Thanks for the reminder to reflect and honor my daddy dearest!

    P.S. I miss you!

    1. Having seen the winding staircase that led to your princess tower, I’m amazed he carried you up that! Scary! But his balance must be far better than mine. Speaking of which, my nose is healing quite nicely. We must get together soon so I can show you! LOL.

  6. What a great post, Jess! Your dad is terrific! The part about Grandpa made me cry.

    1. I read this to my mom and I think she teared up too. She said the last couple of months he said it back to them. But even though he didn’t say it a lot growing up, she always knew he’d fight for them, stand up for them, take care of them, and love them.

  7. I know my father did some things that I loved–like giving me airplanes such as I now give my son!–but mostly he’s not worth remembering, save as an example of what not to be. My son’s dad, OTOH? He’s creating a world where his son will have something to celebrate on Father’s Day. :)

    1. Kudos to you for starting a new family and making your own traditions and memories!

  8. Beautiful. I’m going to do my Father’s Day post later this week (probably) but I’ll always treasure the time my Dad took me aside on my Wedding Day and said “We don’t often tell you, but we’re very proud of you.” Made me realise I needed to say it to my kids because of the way it makes you feel. Life’s to short to plan on saying something later on……

    1. Well, I can’t speak for your children and their feelings toward you calling them weasels all the time, but I’m sure they too know you love them, rodent-like qualities or not. ;)

  9. Wonderful, your tribute to your dad brings tears to my eyes as I think about my dad!

    1. I’m very glad I was able to meet him and share some family get togethers with you all. He was a very hard working man, with a great sense of humor from what I’ve learned.

  10. What a beautiful post! I have the most amazing relationship with my dad but it only came about after some really hard stuff… but now, he is absolutely my rock and my best friend, and I love him to pieces :)

    1. Good for you for overcoming difficult situations to make a relationship change for the better. Not everyone can do that (or should), and that really shows your true intentions and how you prioritize your family.

  11. This is so sweet of you. Of course now I feel like the worst daughter ever. I sent my dad a generic card. ;)

    1. I did that too. I’m still trying to get a hold of him on the phone, but every time I call, he’s working, at an appt, or asleep. Who knew I’d need to schedule time to call my own DAD! lol

  12. What a touching story. I can’t believe he forgets your name though, Sally. How awful!

    I didn’t know you guys had a family restaurant. That’s pretty awesome.

    1. ROFL!! I’m a bit slow today. I was like “why is Mark calling her Sally???” :-)

      1. That’s my name, Madge, don’t wear it out!

    2. Thanks for stopping by, Mike!

      Yes my family owned a restaurant for 16 years. A steak house located on the skirts of the Jefferson County Fair Grounds, so it was called Fair View Inn. I bussed tables growing up, my brothers were bussers, dishwashers, and then cooks, and my mom was the bookkeeper and occasional hostess. My aunt and uncle owned the bar attached. Amazingly, my sister never had to do any of this. (I think it’s cause she’s the pretty one.)

  13. Growing up, I don’t really have a good father figure. Both my parents were working abroad, and my brother and I were entrusted in the care of my grandma. Santa Claus would’ve bin an apt description but he’s more like Zeus–physically unreachable except through his voice on the telephone. Besides, my grandma tended to vilify my dad so that she could paint an angelic picture of my mom. Because of her stories, I made up my mind that I want to be with my mom while I stay as far as possible from my dad before I even met my parents.

    Though I don’t say it often, I love my dad. Though we’re not close (I was already fifteen when I saw both of my parents again), I know i could rely on him. I love my dad’s cockiness; he believes that everything would go right. To me, my dad is perfect, just the way he is. Somehow, I’m able to overlook my dad’s flaws and see his good qualities more than the bad.

    1. Marilag, this a lovely shared piece about your father. I think it shows just what a positive person you are. You are the residential self-help expert of blogging authors and you live your life the way you ask us to. I’m happy for you that you’ve patched together a relationship with your dad that lets you admire his strengths and see the love he has for you. Thank you for sharing that with me.

  14. [...] Father’s Day: Saying I love You, Whoever You Are by Jess Witkins.  Her tribute to her father makes me wish I was with mine growing up. [...]

  15. This is a beautiful post, Jess…I can tell you’re a lot like your dad!

    Wendy

    1. Oh yah, I know I’m a lot like him. Let’s just hope my spelling is better, you know, for my career’s sake.

  16. [...] Dad!  Apparently blogging about my dad is a big hit.  Readers can’t get enough of Saying I Love You, Whoever You Are, Audio Tracked Peacock Noises, and If You Give a Squirrel a [...]

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