My Dad

My Dad

From A 5th Portion of Chicken Soup for the Soul

My Dad

I think I was his favorite. My brothers and sister probably thought they were his favorite. He had the ability to make each of us feel special, even after we’d done something wrong. He didn’t understand me as a teenager but knew enough not to try. He didn’t offer advice unless I asked him and even then it was more of a soul-searching exercise with him. He knew I could figure things out on my own, without him, but I continued asking for his advice for as long as I could. My father and I shared a lot of similarities. We loved animals, liked the same movies, enjoyed the same adventures. We also shared the same commitment to our families—something that I learned from him.

My two brothers, my sister and I were raised in a very creative environment with many opportunities. Both my mother and my father were always there for us. They gave us the stability and the life that is so important for children. When I was about ten, I would try on my mother’s wedding gown and my dad would run in from working in the yard, brush off his hands and play “The Wedding March” on the organ for me as I walked slowly down the stairs, believing my prince had come. We would do this over and over again until I got tired. He would never tell me he was too busy.

To see the way he treated other people and the helping hand he offered was a great gift to give a child. He forever wanted to stop and help people stranded on the highway. It was only because there were four tired kids in the car and my mother reassuring him that other people were stopping to help that my father could continue on. He also wanted to pick up hitchhikers, as he hated to see anyone needing something that he could give them. He felt is was our duty as citizens to help other people in need.

He was frugal but generous. He loved to have as many people as we could squish into our mountain cabin near Yosemite, and he was always baking. Pies were coming out of the oven as fast as anyone could eat them. He gave to many charities and sponsored children overseas. He was very proud of that and showed off the letters from those children whenever he could.

As I grew up, married and moved away from home, I realized the importance of having Dad in my life. He was still my rock—my stability, my security. The foundation that Dad provided for me had given me the opportunity to enjoy my marriage and my children. While many people cannot accept challenges or inconveniences in their lives, my dad taught me how to clear the hurdles that can cause complications in life.

And so it has happened. On the coldest day of the year in February 1996, my father passed away after battling cancer for almost a year. It’s okay, though. After all, he wasn’t thirty-five, forty-five or even fifty-five. He was a sixty-five-year-old man. His children were all happily married and living their own busy lives. He had eleven grandchildren and a great-grandchild on the way. Many people would say he had lived a full life. Which he had— but I still wasn’t ready to let him go.

We worried about Mom going on without him. We worried that somehow our childhood chapter would close if he died. We worried that he would be in pain. He fought without complaining, and we now know he fought it for us. Battling lymphoma for ten months showed his four children the courage it takes to be a good father.

In his final days, we spent as much time with him as possible. In those few short months, I tried to pay him back for everything he had done for me in my thirty-six years. I wanted to do it all and could only do so little. Many days I just sat with him.

I believe he chose his night to die. All of us were in town. We had a big family dinner and I walked him to bed before I left that evening. I kissed him on his head and told him I would see him tomorrow. I know my brothers and sister left after me and went in to say goodnight also. They each had their moment: that last great moment. My mother had him in the end. As she walked him from the bathroom back to bed around 3:00 in the morning, he silently collapsed in her arms. She gently lowered him to the floor, put a pillow under his head and covered him with a blanket. That’s how we saw him when we showed up minutes later, after my mother called us all together. My brother said that he heard it was the coldest day of the year, that day in February.

The days following his death just confirmed to me how important he was in my life and in the lives of my sister and brothers. Each of us has our special memories that are just of “me and Dad.” As my life goes on he continues to help me make important decisions. Sometimes I can hear his voice. Standing in line to buy flowers for his grave one day, I could hear him so clearly saying, “Oh Brenda, don’t buy those for me. Spend the money on yourself.”

What’s important for you to understand about me, Dad, is that in a way, I was spending money on myself. I’ve learned from you that doing things for other people is the best gift I can give to myself.

Brenda Gallardo

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners