52 Sundays; june 20, 2010

Musical pairing – The Living Years by Mike & the Mechanics

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe.  To him, all good things, trout as well as eternal salvation, came by grace and grace comes by art, and art does not come easy.” Robert Redford, A River Runs Through It

SMITH BITES NOTE: I originally wrote this piece a couple of years ago – long before I even knew the word ‘Blog’.  Grief and sorrow are odd companions – surfacing willy-nilly without warning as they did this week; a week in which my father would have celebrated a birthday and today, Father’s Day.

Normally, I try to keep Smith Bites positive and upbeat by sharing funny stories about my life with The Professor or experiences I’ve had while growing up or traveling.  But as the memories of my father’s passing hit me this week, I’m reminded of all that was lost that day. My siblings and I each live in different states and our mother, who has medical issues, is all but estranged from her children and grandchildren.  So we find ourselves looking for a ‘new normal’ living as adult orphans.  We’ve been fortunate to have our husbands, wives, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, good friends as well as each other to help navigate uncharted territory.  The hole that is left when a loved one passes on never closes – but what I know with absolute certainty is that joy and sorrow can co-exist; sometimes one leads while the other follows . . . they change places and the dance continues.

Today, I’m choosing to celebrate his life by sharing this story with those of you kind enough to stop by.

JULY 2008: We were in New Hampshire this past Monday morning and found ourselves at Panera for bagels and coffee; all of a sudden a roar of laughter sounded from the other side of our booth.  “Bobby was 4 under par on that hole!”  (which means absolutely NOTHING to me since I don’t golf . . .)  More laughter.  When I stood up to get a refill on my coffee, I glanced over to where all the ruckus was coming from; there were about 10 men, probably in their 60s and early 70s sitting together, drinking coffee and yucking it up.  My  thoughts immediately flashed to my dad, I smiled and at the same time, tears stung my eyes and a lump formed in my throat.

My dad died almost 6 years ago – just days before 9-11 in 2001 from a type of lung cancer that is caused by asbestos – asbestos he had worked with as a twenty-something electrician in the Navy some 40 years before.

But my dad had a group of buddies just like these guys – they golfed together, played cards together and had breakfast together almost every Saturday morning.  Same time, same restaurant, same table, same waitress and probably ordered the same items each week.  And they laughed – just like the guys across the room at Panera.

My dad had that deep, from your toenails, belly-laugh; and even if you didn’t think something was particularly funny, but he was laughing, you found yourself laughing too – contagious, that’s what it’s called, contagious laughter – and he had it.

So while I miss him terribly and tears can come without warning, I find true joy in remembering the stories, the quirks, the twinkle in his eyes and his laugh.

I miss you bunches, Dad – Happy Father’s Day.


  1. Such a nice tribute to your Dad! I never thought of myself as an adult orphan, but then my parents lived into their 90’s so I had them longer than most.
    I loved your comment about joy and sorrow…my Dad was born on April 1st..April Fools Day, We would all try to “fool” him on his birthday and everyone would end up laughing. He often got the trick in on us before we remembered. So it’s a birthday we will always remember with a smile even though he’s gone.

  2. What a lovely tribute to your dad. And you are so right–joy and sorrow can coexist. None of us gets out of this life without our share of both…it’s what you make of it that matters. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Even though it has been 41 years I continue to feel this. I miss him dearly. My mom has been gone for 11 years. It is not often I hear someone else use the phrase ‘adult orphan’ and yes it is a strange feeling. Keep those beautiful memories and share them so others will know him too!

    Thank you Debra for sharing your memories.

  4. This is why I am bringing my dad a container of what’s considered the best sauerkraut in the world–because we want to do right by these awesome men while we still can. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing his story!

  5. Such a nice post for Father’s Day. I lost my dad over 4 years ago and my mom has been gone 16 years. There is such a strange feeling when you are as you say an “adult orphan”.

    Thank goodness for other family, my hubby and children. I often think of my dad and almost forget I can’t pick up the phone and hear his voice.

    Have a wonderful day today and keep those memories!

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