I was 39 years old when my father passed away—a mere child, by my standards. While the days of pleading for prom dresses, crying for the car keys, and lamenting lost loves were long gone, I still hadn’t outgrown my need for a daddy.
With each milestone in my life, the void seemed bigger. There was no grandpa to herald the arrival of my sons. No paternal encouragement when I struggled with the decision to quit a nine-to-five job and freelance. No familiar cries of “That’s my girl!” when my first novel was published. We were a team, Dad and I, and I felt empty without him.
And then… I met Pop.
Pop has been a fixture in this town since the 1950s. He was the local plumber back then, and he soon developed a reputation as the guy residents could count on for any emergency that had to do with a water pipe. Of course, that was before I knew him.
We were introduced in 1997, and became fast friends. Pop is three months younger than my father would have been, but the similarities go far beyond age. Pop has the same rugged gentleness as my dad. He has the same knowing look that says, “I can see right inside your head, young lady, so don’t try to pull anything over on me.”
Meeting Pop brought a new dimension to my life. He became my pal. My buddy. My confidante. But things were destined to change again.
In the fall of 1998, Pop suffered a stroke. For six weeks, his home was a hospital room. His life became a series of therapies, exercises, medications, and special diets. Throughout it all, he never lost his sense of humor—or his sense of worth. I remember when one of his rehabilitation workers asked him what his goals were. Both the therapist and I expected an answer that had to do with improved physical ability. Instead, Pop just smiled and said, “My goal is to make people happy.”
Since Pop’s stroke, we’ve rarely spent a day apart. Our friendship blossomed into something richer and fuller than I had ever imagined. The personal crisis he endured brought us closer…made us stronger…and he became my dad.
Pop turned 89 years old last January. Although wheelchair-bound, he hasn’t lost his spark—or a single brain cell, for that matter. He’s sharp and sly as ever, and when he laughs, his eyes crinkle up with pure joy. I am honored to share his time with him, and blessed to call him my Pop.
To the father who gave me life…to the father who gave me light…Happy Father’s Day to both of you, with love.