Sunday, January 17, 2016
My First Holidays After Dad
I got up this morning and thought ‘I have to call Dad.’ And then I thought: “Dad died.” It comes to me at odd times and then the waterworks start all over again. He was an easy father to love—in his later years.
In his early years, he was a dedicated bread winner and corporate executive. He traveled worldwide and we didn’t see him much. When he was home, Mom would recite our sins and he became the disciplinarian. He was affectionate, but not overly demonstrative.
After he retired, he became the most loving connected father. Oh sure, he was still bitterly disappointed that he didn’t raise four Republicans and we didn’t seem to understand what a mess this country is in, but he loved us anyway. We got hugs and kisses and I always called home before I left on a trip and each time I got to my destination safely. He wanted to know I was okay. And he always reminded me to “keep the back door open.”
My father, Joseph T. Hepp, was a long-time contributor of editorial opinion pieces for the Battle Creek Enquirer. He self-published two books and even had a blog, all to keep trying to wake up this country to the wrong direction in which he thought we were headed. As a writer, I was his editor of his newspaper pieces and books. While I didn’t often agree with his stance, I was always so honored to do that for him. And he was a quick learner. I very patiently fixed and explained to him about not doing all his indentations with hard carriage returns, and that he didn’t have to put every important word in quotes. Courtesy of cut-and-paste, I could move paragraphs around so the meanings and connections worked. Over the years he got much better and produced long articles, typing with only his right index finger. He used to joke that if the arthritis got too bad in that finger, he was going to have to write them with his middle finger, which might be a statement in itself! The last thing I wrote for him was his obituary.
I miss him so much today and every day. At almost 92 years old, he was a force in all our lives. My husband spent a lot of time today giving hugs. He’s a great father, too. As is my son. His daughters are amazing and know they are unconditionally loved.
My father wasn’t perfect, but as he told us a few years ago in frustration at our inability to forget the things they did wrong raising us (as all children love to do), he said: “Listen. We did the best we could with what we knew then. Get over it.” I sure hope my son will understand that about his upbringing. I made a lot of mistakes.