The week of August 15-22 is always a tough one for me every year. My Dad died suddenly on August 15 and his 55th birthday would have been the following week on August 22. Tomorrow marks 16 years and it will still hit me every now and then…my Dad is gone. It’s surreal. Sometimes I’ll have one of those “life questions” and for a split moment will think, I should ask Dad, he’ll know. Those are the moments where reality slaps me in the face. Hard.

I’m not going to sugarcoat; Dad and I had a very up-and-down relationship, especially as I entered the teen years. Unfortunately, we were one in the same and had the same stubbornness, fiery tempers, and a strong-willed nature to be in control. We butted heads a lot! It was a constant battle since I could not, can not, and will not be controlled. But, when we got along it was just as “up” as it was “down” since we also had the same sense of humor and had an inner wild-child. There wasn’t much of a happy medium – when we were good, we were great! When we were bad, we were really bad.

However, as much of a roller coaster as we were, he was my Dad and I’d give anything to have him back. I miss his wisdom – I swear I could fire any question at him and he’d know the answer. He would have found so many things cool that I have done in the past sixteen years. I’d like to think that our relationship would have become more relaxed when I became an adult (he died when I was twenty-four, I consider that still young). I know he already approved of Paul because he always told Paul to “Take her!!” He missed out on being a grandpa and while he wasn’t much of a “kid person”, I think he would have been head-over-heels for his grandson and granddaughter.

He loved his oldies music, which is where I developed my love for the genre. Growing up I wasn’t allowed to listen to current music, so I was into music from the 50s and 60s while being a child of the 80s. Back then I would get a bit irritated because I had no idea what my friends were listening to, but now I am incredibly grateful! I have met the most amazing people because of that. He loved to sing karaoke  and would often belt out some Elvis after a drink or two (although there was an ongoing joke in our house about the Lime in the Coconut!). He was a proud Vietnam Veteran and served in the United States Marine Corps. He was badass and scary if you were on his bad side (sound like anyone you know?), but such a Teddy Bear (one of his Elvis karaoke tunes) at the same time. He loved animals, especially his dogs over the years and claimed to hate cats, but wept like a baby when our cat, Sheba died. We knew he was all talk because we’d catch him giving her love all the time. His dogs were his buddies, his best friends, and constant companions – the man adored them and they adored him.

I remember when 9/11 happened he wouldn’t go to bed. We believe he was developing a mild case of PTSD because he claimed he was standing watch in case we were attacked while we slept. He was on red alert and ready to fight. He was an old Marine, but still a Marine. He was protective of my mom and me and would have either taken a bullet or taken someone’s head off for messing with me.

I remember chatting with him in the living room one day about a year before he died. I vividly remember him saying he wanted to be remembered as a compassionate man. And he was. He cared for the underdogs and would protect those who were weak. No good deed went unnoticed from him. Yet, he cussed and he flew off the handle quite a bit (he got so mad at our Honda Civic in the 80s that my mom and I saw him climb up onto the hood, and jump up and down on it while colorful profanities flew from his mouth – we can laugh about it now!). He loved oysters rockefeller, peanut butter blossom cookies (or as he called them, boobie cookies), and going out to eat. He loved to banter back and forth with my boyfriend (now husband), who he affectionately called “son”. He would dream big, chase those dreams with all of his might, but was never actually able to nail one of those dreams down. I know the feeling all too well.

And I miss him. My God, how I miss him. I need him here so bad.

I love you, Dad.