When I remember my dad, most of my memories center around dinners with him. Growing up, it was the one time of day when the family was all together and, in later years, dinner was a part of any visit.
When I see Don Draper of “Mad Men”, I always think of my dad returning home from work. Like Don, Dad was tall, dark and handsome… the quintessential image of a 1960s businessman.
However, once Dad changed out of his suit into his “around the house” clothes, this resemblance disappeared completely.
Well, maybe not completely…
After Dad was out of his suit and done with his cocktail and newspaper, we sat down to dinner. Dad listened to our problems and shared his wisdom.
Once summer weekends arrived, dinner meant… barbecues with the neighbors!
When he finished his round up, he’d break the news to Mom.
The barbecues lasted long into the night with the strains of Andy Williams and John Gary crooning from Dad’s patio speakers. They were a summer staple at our house for over 20 years, but ended when Mom and Dad sold the house and moved into a condo.
We didn’t eat out at restaurants much, but there was one consideration that overshadowed all overs when we did.
After we daughters were grown with families of our own, family dinners shifted to our homes. These were the best years. Mom and Dad were (relatively) healthy, enjoying retirement and seemed to like us more as adults than children. Conversations were funny and interesting and Dad could be counted on to add life to any gathering.
The years eventually took their toll. My dad lost most of his eyesight to macular degeneration and my mom lost the use of her legs to multiple sclerosis. Between the two of them, they tried to function as one person.
Dad was in charge of heating meals we had made for them, doing laundry, grocery shopping and taking care of Mom. He was all that stood between her and a nursing home and he did it without complaint.
When this became too much for them, Mom and Dad moved to supportive living, or “God’s Waiting Room”, as my mom called it. After Mom died, Dad’s “eyes” were gone and he was left to fend for himself. Meal times were difficult. Dad was too proud to accept help, especially offers to cut up his food. Watching him eat was excruciating.
As we walked out of the dining room one day, I noticed a big wad of mashed potatoes which had fallen on to the tip of Dad’s slipper. I held back tears thinking of my handsome, Don-Draper-ish dad, now a frail old man with potatoes on his shoe.
Not long after that, Dad started rotating through hospitals and rehab centers. As the clock wound down, I didn’t know if he was aware how close to the end he was. Our last dinner gave me the answer.
After I left Dad’s side that day, I never saw him conscious again. He died October 17, 2010. I still feel bad that his last dinner was orange Jello, but I am glad he had it with me.
Remembering my dad with much love today and wishing a very Happy Father’s Day to all the dads who make happy memories for their children.
14 thoughts on “Dinners with Dad”
We open each blog with anticipation. This once was particularly beautiful. Thank you.
Thanks, Kris! Dad was a memorable character and it was fun to share some of his story.
Love the LOVE in this post. Our dad was a fashion king, too….black socks and shorts worn with dress shoes was his summer uniform. Interesting that you focus on meal times. Dads did feed us with their humor and wisdom as well as any orange jello we ever shared. I can hear your dad say “kid” very clearly!
Thanks for this post!
Thanks, Maureen! I don’t know where the Ganey boys got their fashion sense. I was hoping that those who knew my dad would see him in this post.
What a touching tribute to your dad. It’s amazing how you capture a whole lifetime in a few frames.
Thanks, Laurie! The “few frames” was a challenge! Lots and lots got left in the sketchbook, but I think you get a sense of what he was like.
Beautiful Marge! Your dad always called all of us “Kid” too and I can still hear him say it. You caught him and much of Al and Ray and Gene here too. Our favorite fashion memory of Ray is when we were at the cabin and he would go out and clip branches down by the lake while still in his pajamas. Mom was horrified that people (fisherman) boating by would see him. I think that -and his compulsive nature- were why he did it.
I sure enjoyed my first issue of Marging. Looking forward to more!
Any last meal would be ok with me as long as it was with you or one of my kids!!!! I especially love Grandpa helping Grandma with the microwave. That is so cute.
Make sure to leave instructions that your last meal should be lemon pepper chicken!
What a wonderful tribute to dad. I love the comments from friends and family. It was touching to read the comments and how the cousins knew and related to it all! It made me sad yet I laughed and could hear him as I read each screen. I am still amazed by your drawings and how you capture each character. Amazing…..just amazing. Thanks for giving dad back to us……
I am glad you saw dad in this post, Laura! It was really fun to see what resonated with people. I got a little weepy when I was drawing the end, but I am very grateful we had him with us for so long.
I just wanted you to know I shared this post with my parents on Fathers Day….They really got a kick out of how accurately you portrayed your Dad. The clothes were priceless!! As they neared the end of the post, they both got very emotional. It really touched us all…..your work is amazing & I am looking forward to following “Marging” and sharing your future posts with my mom & dad. And I too am so grateful for all the memories I have & continue to have with my parents.
Thank you so much for your comments and I am glad you enjoyed the piece on my dad, Judy. I got choked up writing it and drawing it. I still do when I re-read it. I am particularly glad you all could see dad in the story!!!
I received a lot of feedback on that one and apparently most dads of the day also wore mismatched clothes and old dress shoes with black socks and were not politically correct when it came to different ethnic backgrounds.