Twenty-One Years with My Dad
Created by Tom Giroux on 21/10/2012
My name is Lucia, and I’m Joseph’s daughter. I could write a book about my Dad and my life with him. I have so much to say and so many stories to tell. I want to share some of them.
I was six years old when my parents adopted me and my sister. My Dad tried to speak Spanish to us, completely failing. We’d laugh at him and tease him. But he took on learning to speak it, and he worked so much at it, that he became better at speaking Spanish than we were.
He also took on bringing music into our lives. At bedtime, my Dad would sing to us and he had a soft and gentle voice that made me feel so safe. He loved music. He used to write songs for my Mom and he’d teach us the lyrics so that we could learn them too. I felt proud that he had written songs. I didn’t know anybody else’s parents who wrote songs and who sang them out loud.
My Dad loved being out in nature and wanted to teach us to love nature like he did. He took us on so many camping and backpacking trips and we’d also camp in our backyard. We went hiking almost every weekend that we weren’t busy with something else. We had lots of adventures, like getting lost and finding our way out of the forest in the pitch black, holding onto each other.
One time we were hiking on a trail that had collapsed and we had to throw our backpacks over and jump across. Some people might have turned around, but not my Dad. He taught us to never give up. One time, he and I backpacked into Carmel Valley and it rained the whole time. It took all my strength to walk out for ten miles through six inches of mud. It was awful. We got all the way to the parking lot, exhausted, and found that the car had sunk into the ground half a foot. My Dad didn’t mind at all. We just got busy, with him on one side and me on the other, digging with our hands because we had nothing else to use. We got our car dug out and finally made it to the road.
That’s how my Dad was. He could do anything he set his mind to and he was very patient.
There were certain things my Dad loved, like tuna noodle casserole. Since my Mom doesn’t like it, my Dad would wait until she went out of town, to visit her mother in Wisconsin. Then he’d make a giant pot of tuna noodle casserole. Raquel and I would eat it, and eat it, for a couple of days, but then we got sick of it. He would finish every last bit of it even when Raquel and I were over it.
Another thing my Dad was really into was big projects, and we had a new one to work on every summer. One year we re-did the back deck, another year the front deck, and another year the bathroom ceiling. When it came to doing our bedroom, we worked along side of him to pull off and re-do the walls. He taught us how to put on fiberglass lining and sheetrock. Then we nailed down every little nail on the floor. He taught us to do so many things because he wanted us to be knowledgeable and to be capable.
My Dad had a copy of the ‘Fix it Yourself Book’ and I have my own copy too. I learned from him that I don’t have to wait for other people to fix things. Because of my Dad, I know how to fix things on my own and I have lots of skills. If a washing machine isn’t working, or my friend’s radio won’t go on, whatever it is, I can take care of it. I even do my own car work if I have the tools. I can take things apart, and put them back together, and they work. Because of my Dad, I feel like a strong woman, and I’m confident in my abilities.
And along with learning all of these skills from my Dad, he also taught me how to think for myself. Instead of giving me advice about something, he would have me make lists of the pros and cons, to look at what was good and bad about the decision, and which choice I would prefer to live with. He never told me what to do, because he wanted me to become a capable adult. Even when I didn’t realize that he was doing this for me, he showed me how to weigh things out and choose. He taught me to not act until I was sure, and then, once I made the best decision I could, he taught me to stick with it and not be wishy-washy.
Along with teaching me how to make my own decisions, my Dad led by example. He didn’t ever expect us to do something that he wasn’t willing or able to do himself. Well, of course he could do everything. So we also learned that we could do everything. There were no easy outs. And there was always a way to make things work.
One of the reasons my Dad was able to do everything so well was that he had an unlimited amount of patience. He barely ever showed frustration or took it out on anyone. We were hard children to take in at the ages we were at, but he could handle it and didn’t let it stop him. I think he raised his voice to me only twice.
I learned from both of my parents that patience is a virtue. I watched my Dad, in the most exasperating situations, where anyone else would freak out, and he was calm. He was also so kind. I never saw him judge anybody. I never heard him talk badly about anyone. He had a lot of friends and he was always there for them. They could reach out to him and he always stood by them.
And he always stood by me. When I was in high school, I played a lot of soccer. Every Friday my Dad would drive for one hour to get home, pick me up, and then drive with me for three to five more hours, in the traffic, up to Sacramento for my tournaments. He did this every Friday for years, and he’d even stay with me up there. That was another way that he showed me how much he supported me and how much he cared that I was happy.
My Dad really loved his family.
He was so loyal to my Mom. For example, if she ever got sick, he’d take care of her. When they went out, he’d drop her off in front of the theater and then go park the car. He’d get up in the mornings and make her coffee, and turn on the heater so it would be warm for her. He always thought of her first and took care of her needs before his.
My parents showed a great example of what love could be, never fighting or arguing in front of us. They only showed us how to have civilized conversations and interactions.
I learned from my Dad that a relationship takes work, and loyalty, that you’re not the only one in it, and that you’re always helping and providing for your spouse.
I have so many memories of my Dad also helping me, of him teaching me how to ride my banana seat bicycle, of him teaching me how to drive a car, and of him helping me to believe in myself by never saying no to any of my ideas. He believed in me and taught me to believe in myself. Instead of ever making me wrong, he would show me a better way to do things. I even learned how to be a better tickler from him because we had tickling wars almost every night after dinner.
Thinking of after dinner brings up such a clear image of my Dad for me. I can just see him, after we finished eating, while we were still sitting at the table. He’d always clasp his hands and put them to his chin. He’d lean back, and have a little side smirk on his face, while he was listening to someone talk. I can see him like that so clearly.
I can also see him trying to dance. He had a funny little shoulder shake he did. He was hilarious in a lot of ways, with a really subtle humor. He was a quick thinker, good with words and witty. He could take a challenging situation with us, when we were teenagers who could have been hostile, and he’d make a funny remark, and turn it into something else by just laughing about how silly we were being. He was so good at seeing the light-hearted side of things, that I was always amused around him.
And I was always really aware of his intelligence. He could figure everything out. Even if he didn’t know something, he would find the answer and tell me about it. He was resourceful and he taught me how to be like him. He also taught me to have calmness like him, to think before I act, to be peaceful, and to really care about others.
Finding an ending for this talk really isn’t possible. There’s no way to sum it all up. It was a lifetime. I could talk about my Dad for hours and how he wisely and gently ushered me through my childhood and into my adulthood. It’s so important for me to keep talking about him, so vital to my recovery from his death, that he be kept alive inside of me. I’m really grateful that I got twenty-one wonderful years with him and I truly know how lucky I was to have gotten him as my father.
Thank you for this opportunity for sharing my wonderful memories of my father with you. He lives on in a wonderful way inside of me.
Joe & Lucia