Lessons From My Father

In Family, Life, Love, Relationships by Queenie4 Comments

The doctors told my mom and dad not to get married, they said he wouldn’t make it. Then after they got married they told him he’d never be able to have more children.

SURPRISE!!!! Here I am, and my brother too!

Strange things started to happen the day my dad died. My cell phone would light up like it was ringing, but there was no number and nobody on the other end- I answered. Light bulbs would blow, and a vase of flowers randomly fell over at the funeral home and dumped water everywhere. I told everyone they were signs, it was dad; he was letting us know he was ok. Everyone doubted me- except my sister, some tried to reason with me or they just agreed because maybe this was my way of dealing with death.

I went back to Charlotte and sat in a school gymnasium waiting for my turn to vote in the presidential election. The gym was packed but it was eerily quiet. A little girl about 5 years old laid on the gym floor coloring in her coloring book. She looked up at her mom and said, “Mommy, what’s colorful language?” All of the adults laughed, I looked at my ex and just said no way, there was absolutely NO WAY! Because just a few weeks earlier my friend gave the eulogy at my dad’s funeral and said there was one thing that we all remembered about my father, his colorful language. There was no way it was all a coincidence.

But there’s one more thing, and nobody will ever be able to convince me otherwise, it’s a smell.

My dad had Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. It’s an incurable disease that damages your bile ducts and destroys your liver, the only remedy is a liver transplant. Most people with PSC also have ulcerative colitis. My dad had it and wore a colostomy bag. My brother and I would beg him not to change his bag before our friends came over because the smell was atrocious. Plus we were like 12 and trying to explain to your friends that your dad has a bag because his intestines aren’t routed the same way as ours and he actually shits out of a hole in his stomach and into a bag, well, that can get awkward.

I was finally back at my house in the Carolinas, the brand new house that my ex and I just built. I was upstairs in our bedroom and stopped, it was the smell.

You know how your grandma always wears that perfume and it just smells like her and nobody else could ever have that same perfume, it’s only unique to her? It’s like that, except it smelled more like what I would expect Sex Panther to smell like. Nobody or nothing else had this smell, it was only unique to him.

I walked in the bathroom and just stopped and looked around. I didn’t even know what to do or look for, I knew there was nothing wrong. I just laughed and smiled and said ok you’re here, you finally made it to see my house and I knew you would have loved the master bathroom, so have fun.

When we moved back to Ohio we lived in a condo in Broadview Heights, the smell was there, when I got divorced I moved to Lakewood, the smell was there and now in my new apartment it’s here too. It doesn’t happen often and nobody’s ever around or it happens at like 3 or 4 in the morning. I always wake up around then and when I lay there sometimes it’ll just come out of nowhere. It happened again this past week which was my birthday and the anniversary of his death, so I said thanks for wishing me a happy birthday, I’ll write a blog post about you.

My dad was a storyteller with a horrible mouth and a short fuse. He was a loose cannon with an addiction to sweets and was always on the go, he always had to meet the guys and bull shit with somebody about something. Sound familiar? This apple did not fall far from the tree, I am my father’s daughter and I’m ok with it. He was a character, and man was he funny.

Growing up I had no idea that there were lessons in everything he was teaching me. It took a while for me to get it, and I’m glad it finally clicked because now I do things a little bit differently.

When I was little my dad enrolled my brother and I into his “boot camp.” We were going to be tough, fighters, and superior athletes and we learned that nothing would ever come without hard work.

He would kneel down on the floor and put both of his hands up so my hands could reach and I’d have to punch his palms. Left, then right, left, right and over and over again. I’d laugh and giggle and then he’d start yelling at me to swing faster and punch harder and remember to turn my fists so I didn’t break my knuckles and it was so much to remember that inevitably, every time, I would end up crying so hard I couldn’t punch any more. He would laugh and give me a hug and tell me I did good.

It was my lesson that we need to remind each other we’re doing a good job, especially on the days when we know we could have swung faster and punched harder.

Then when it was time for me to start school I remember standing in the kitchen waiting to get bacon from my mom and my dad said, “Remember. If anybody starts with you, you finish it. If they hit you, you hit ‘em back.” I said ok, and my mom, appalled by my father’s advice, told me that I would go get a teacher, I was not fighting anyone. To which my dad said, “To hell with a teacher, they start it, you finish it. You always finish it.” It finally paid off in high school, some boy kept dunking me in our friend’s pool and holding me under water. The last time he dunked me I couldn’t take it and my switch flipped, as soon I came up from out of the water I swung and I got him GOOD. That was the end of that, and we’re actually really good friends now!

This was my lesson that I couldn’t depend on anyone except myself. I wouldn’t involve anyone in any of my issues or expect anyone to solve anything for me. If there was a problem, I would be the one to take care of it.

My dad loved to hunt and fish and he loved taking us fishing, he probably would have taken us hunting but I’m thinking that was a battle my mom won. I remember he took me to a guy’s farm (because my dad knew a guy for everything). He put the bait on my line and said, “Ok now throw the line out and DO NOT throw it in the rocks across the crick.” Where did my line go? Right in the rocks across the crick. “GOD DAMN IT, SARAH! (Very, VERY frequently heard sentence) I told you NOT to throw it in the rocks.” And that was the last time I went fishing. I think that was about the time my dad and I realized the girl in me was starting to shine through. I liked nothing about fishing. The fish stunk and I hated taking them off the line.

That’s when I learned I didn’t need to do things I didn’t like in order to please people. It’s ok to say there are some things in life that I just don’t like- fishing, camping, sushi, Jerry Seinfeld.

My dad believed I should have responsibilities, like chores. So one day he made me cut the grass. We fought and fought, I stomped my feet, I pouted, and I used my best crocodile tears to get me out of this but he would not budge. I did get him to make a deal, all I had to do was successfully cut the backyard and he would do the front. So he took me out back and showed me how to work the lawn mower, I just had to push and walk. I was livid. He started it up for me and I went up and down the back yard trying to figure out how to be dramatic and ruin this so I would never have to do it again. I didn’t have to try too hard. After an eternity I finished the lawn and looked down at my shoes and started crying. DIVA MELTDOWN! My dad ran over and asked what happened. “MY SHOES ARE GREEN!” I was screaming! “I WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN, I’M NOT EVER CUTTING GRASS AGAIN.” And then he did that thing that every child hates, he laughed right in my face. He thought this was the funniest thing he’d ever seen and I wasn’t having any of it. That was the first and last time in my life that I ever cut grass.

That’s the day I learned it was perfectly acceptable to pay people to do yard work or find a man that will do it for you.

My dad believed we had to try every sport once and we had to pick something to stick with, we weren’t allowed to sit at home and do nothing. So I tried everything- gymnastics, roller skating, ice skating, softball, basketball, soccer, cheerleading, dance, etc. Whatever I was involved in my dad treated it like I was training to be an Olympian. I swear I had a private instructor for everything. Half the time I rolled my eyes, but I look back now and it makes me smile, I know he did it because he believed in me and wanted me to be the best. He never laughed at me or my brother or sisters, and he never treated us like silly dreamers, he only worked to help us make the dreams a reality.

I can only imagine what the world would be like if we believed in each other a little bit more instead of laughing at each other when we talked about our dreams. If I have kids one day and my child say he/she wants to fly to the moon, I know I’ll be on the phone with NASA the next day figuring out how to get my kid to the moon and who can help me find the big dipper.

When I ran track, I had to practice with a college athlete or my dad on my days off. One of my events was hurdles, and one day my dad came home with a hurdle and told me to get outside and practice in the yard until I got my steps down. I asked him where he got the hurdle, “Oh, I know a guy down at the track.” Didn’t even know why I asked at this point. On the day of one of my meets I took my place on the starting line, I was nervous, and before the gun went off I false started. I looked over at my dad standing at the fence, he knew I was defeated and he told me to shake it off. We all lined up again and when the gun went off I miscounted my steps and stopped before the hurdle, I wasn’t going to make it. I was furious and walked off the track in tears right over to my dad. He hugged me and just laughed and said I’d get ‘em next time.

My lesson that sometimes in life you miscount your steps and miss your hurdle. You have to laugh at yourself, shake it off, and get ‘em next time.

My dad didn’t call me Queenie for nothing. In the summer he’d walk in from work and yell from the kitchen, “AY, QUEENIE! Why are the dishes still in the sink? What are you doing? You better not still be sleeping its 1 o’clock!”


He’d turn on the water and do the dishes. When I heard the water turn off and the last dish get put away I’d roll out of bed and walk through the kitchen giving him a side eye and a smile. The look to say, please don’t yell at me. And he didn’t. He knew he was responsible for this little monster. When I came home from college I’d beg my mom for gas money and she’d tell me no, I had a job and I needed to use my money more wisely. I’d pout and say fine, and when she’d turn her back I’d go and ask my dad. “Oh, sure how much do you need, honey? $10? Oh here, I have a $20.” Cha-ching!

My lesson that men are complete suckers when it comes to the women they love. I knew what I could and couldn’t get away with, but I also knew that my dad had me on a pedestal, he loved me, he appreciated me, and he respected me. He gave me the blueprint for a boyfriend. And future guy, God bless the day you actually try to tell me no …

But my last and most important lesson came the day my dad died.

I was the last one to get there. My mom, uncle, brother, sisters and brothers-in-law were all waiting for me in his hospital room. I couldn’t believe that this was it, 27 years in and out of hospitals and this would be the last time. I never thought the day would come, I expected him to live forever, but here I was and it all came too fast.

We sat there the whole day waiting, watching him to see if he was still breathing.

My dad worked at the hospital, he knew everyone and the whole day people were in and out saying hello, telling us their stories. Because if you knew my dad, you didn’t just know him or know of him, you had a story about him.

My brother-in-law left and came back with a pizza. Everyone was beat and we had to eat. We sat there and in between the laughter and the tears we told stories while we ate our pizza. It was our last meal we shared together as a complete family.

My mom told us our dad said the night before that he wished he never worked so much so he could have been able to spend more time with all of us. It hit me like a ton of bricks. You always hear that before people die they say they wish they could have spent more time with the people they loved, but this was the person that I loved that was saying it and I finally got it. He always worked two jobs to make sure we had everything we needed and at that moment I would have traded the private school, and the car, and the clothes, and the toys just to have more time.

27 years and that day the puzzle came together. All of the lessons finally made sense. 27 years in and out of hospitals with my dad and the last elevator ride down was surreal. On that last ride down I vowed that I would live my life better. I’d stop doing things to please everybody else and I would finally do things for me. I would do things that mattered, I would dream bigger, I would work harder, love more, and most importantly, I’d slow down.

I had a bad habit of rushing. After I got divorced I realized all I was doing was rushing through life to try to get to the next place. But where exactly was the next place? When I started to date my ex I needed to move in, I needed the ring, I needed the wedding, I needed the house- it was never enough and looking back I hate that I never really stopped to enjoy and appreciate where I was at in life. It all moved so fast and I forced it to move faster, I wish I would have taken more time to live in the moment. All I can do now is take that last lesson from my father and live my life the way I know I should.

I won’t rush anymore, because I know that inevitably this will all change. I will one day meet my match, the man who has bigger balls than mine (highly unlikely), and I’ll be off on my next adventure. I refuse to worry about finding someone to date because there’s nothing to worry about, it’ll happen, and in the meantime I’m going to go out with my friends and fill my days with everything fun that I love in life. Because 20 years from now I want to look back and laugh and say, “Remember that time when …” I’ll look back and I’ll laugh because I know did it right, I didn’t rush, and I actually took time to live in and appreciate each moment, the happy and even the sad.

There will be a day where we will all wish we could come back to this moment. Because right now, whatever moment we’re in, we probably don’t realize how great it actually is.

I get made fun of because I’m 33 and I frequent clubs, I dance on tables, I go out too much, I kiss too many boys, and I am actively chasing my pie in the sky dream! But I’m living! And I’m happy, like REALLY happy, a lot happier than I ever have been. So I’m going to continue to frequent clubs, I’m going to dance on tables, I’m going to continue to kiss boys until that one frog turns into a damn prince, and I’m turning my dream into a reality! And when I’m on my death bed I’m going to laugh and say I kicked life’s ass! Will you be able to do the same?

I see things differently now and I had to watch someone I love die in order to get it all. Things never stay the same for too long and it’s up to all of us to live in and enjoy each moment. If you want a new job, go get it. If you have a dream, go follow it. If you want to take a day off work to spend it with your kids, do it. When you go to a restaurant and the waiter asks if you want dessert, ALWAYS GET THE DESSERT!

The point is to do more things that make YOU happy! Stop doubting yourself, stop worrying, and that plan you wrote down for your life- burn it. Seriously, nothing in life goes according to plan and you need to recognize the beauty in that.

You will fall on your face a million times, you will screw things up ROYAL and yes, you will try things and fail. But is it really failure? Look back at your life, the things you were bad at, all of the things you tried. It didn’t go as planned, but it all worked out, didn’t it? Maybe there was a different plan all along and you were just too blind to see it. Look back and you will see everything is exactly as it should be, because all of the things you have done, whether you’ve failed or succeeded, have always opened new doors to different places. If you look at your life and feel like it’s all wrong, do something to fix it. Quit your bitching and just fix it. Stop living vicariously through other people and start living the life YOU want to live!

I may not physically have my dad anymore, but I have the lessons, the many, many lessons. And on those random nights when that awful smell hits me, I once again get my reminder. My reminder to make sure I’m living this one life I have right.

The song I chose for this post has one of my most favorite lines from any song, “If I knew yesterday what I know today, where would I be tomorrow?” Think about it.

Don’t let your soul slide away, do whatever it takes because this time’s only borrowed. You’ve got this one life.

Make sure you live it right.


They gave my dad 5 days to live before they finally found a match for his liver. I was 12. When I was 26 he had a kidney transplant.

Unfortunately, there are thousands of people out there waiting for a transplant, a transplant that may never come because there’s a shortage of donors.

If you ever wanted to do anything to help someone but didn’t know what, please sign up to be an organ donor, it’s free and you may just end up giving some little girl 15 extra years with her father.



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  1. Sara H

    Such a great entry! I still get excited every time if see a new one in my inbox.

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