My Brave Valentine

Ashley: I went to go see my Dad today. At the Forrest Lawn Cemetery in the Morning Star section. It’s quite beautiful there, but good grief, it was a circus trying to get in the place. Apparently everyone else had the idea to go spend the day with their dead Dads. Now, I realize I’m sounding slightly morbid, but I think you guys will get used to the way I talk. I didn’t go see him there today because I think he floats around Forrest Lawn. Or to have one of those cinematic moments where you look up at the sky and go “Hey Dad, it’s me. How’s it going up there?” I go there because it inspires me. Yes, being around all those dead carcasses inspires me. What I mean is, my Dad was someone who lived life to the fullest. And he taught us to do the same. He was the bravest, most kind hearted soul you’d ever meet. I couldn’t have had a better father and I mean that with every fiber of my being.

I sat there and I broke down like an old Ford truck. I miss him like hell. There are some times where I can’t stand that he’s not here. That I can’t hold him, or he can’t hold me. I would hold on so tight. When someone leaves such an imprint on your life, it’s hard not to miss them. My Dad was an encourager. He was quality, top shelf goods. He gave us the courage to go out and try things that to most people seemed stupid, crazy or downright outrageous. He was fearless. He would never blow smoke up our behinds and when we were wrong, he would correct us with gentleness. He seemed to know the answers to just about anything I could think of to ask him. It was incredible really. He knew a lot about a lot of things. Not just a little about a lot of things. And not just because he was my dad or my hero, but he was honestly good at everything. He pushed us to give that little extra effort in life. And I pray that as I get older, that I can develop even half of the qualities he had.

My Dad was not a coward. And even after he got sick he was not a coward. He had a quiet confidence that let you know everything was going to be okay. Even on those last days. He was one of those guys that made you feel safe. I always felt that if I was with him, I could somehow survive anything. A plane crash. A great white shark encounter. I don’t know. Anything.

He passed down that love for old jazz to me as well. Old Nat King Cole Trio stuff. The Ink Spots. All the good stuff. I got in to it after he passed away, which makes me sad thinking he will never know that he passed that on. But when I put on those old records in my room and close my eyes, I can see him. I can smell him. Always smelling of the sea like he just got home from a sunset sail. I loved the way he used to listen to music. He’d close his eyes, take it in, sway his head from side to side. ”Beautiful” he’d say. Whenever we were in the car he’d always have on 94.7 The Wave (Smooth jazz). And I hated it. I still do! But I would give the world to jump in that truck again and hear that God awful smooth jazz if it meant I could see him again.

He was also an incredible musician. He played for the New York Philharmonic when he was 13. His mother was a concert pianist and as he grew up, was pushed and pushed to practice and practice. My dad never did that with us. I’m sure people say “When I have kids, I’m never going to do what my parents did to me.” And they might forget and end up treating their kids that same way their parents did. But my Dad always made adjustments within himself. If there was something he didn’t like, he worked to change it. And he never forced us to do anything unless we were passionate about it.

I started playing piano after my Dad died. And I get so sad sometimes knowing that I’ll never be able to play for him. Even if I sucked, he would have done that thing. Close his eyes, take it in, sway his head. ”Beautiful.”

I seem to be picking up pieces of my dad that I never knew existed when I was younger. Perhaps it’s me desperately trying to be more like him. Or maybe it’s my attempt to keep him alive still. Through music. Through pictures. Through paintings. The only way I know how to keep him here.

As I was sitting there today, so many thoughts went through my mind. Did he get everything he wanted out of life? What were things he didn’t get a chance to do? Would he be proud of us right now? Would he be proud of me?

When I go seem him, I always walk away with these thoughts. Make no small plans. When it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go. And you never know when that is. Love with all your heart. And I know we hear it all the time, but for God’s sake, let your family know you love them. Be free with your affections for them. One thing I will never ever question, is the love my Dad had for me. Ever.

He was the ultimate Valentine. And he will forever be my #1 Valentine.

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