My Dad

In our house everyone alwaNielsen Family 021ys referred to my Dad as Father. Even the Mothers called him Father, at least when us children were around. So it was natural that as a small child of about three years old I thought Father was actually his name. One night as I lay in bed my brother Marcus was in the same room with me. “Want to know a secret?” he asked me.

Yeah

“Father’s name,” he paused for dramatic effect, “isn’t really Father!

You’re lying! I said Yes it is,

Not its Ivan

“Ivan, I said the word over to myself and suddenly had recollections of hearing people call him that. I knew Marcus must be telling me the truth. I felt betrayed. My parents had lied to me and told me that his name was Father. That is one of my earliest recollections about my dad.

I vaguely remember him taking me and my sister Liz to the park next door to our house. I remember having his 50th birthday party and how excited I was for that. I remember him always whistling as he came through the back door after work. I remember him finishing his breakfast in the morning and taking off the bib that he always wore when he ate folding it up and crossing the ties on top. Then he would settle his hat on his head and do a big wave and say see you later alligator! Then he would do a little jig as he walked down through the long kitchen to the back door in the playroom.12303_10150150985230344_1710961_n

My dad rarely if ever spoke of his feelings for us. I don’t think I ever heard him say I love you until just recently. But we all knew. I think every one of us knew without question that he loved us. He was my hero and was and still is in my eyes pretty near perfect. One of my friends, after meeting him, described him as a mix between an apostle and Santa Claus.

One day I was getting ready to go to Japan. In the weeks leading up to my departure it had seemed to me that every time I saw my dad he had something mean to say to me. “Isn’t it almost time that we get to get rid of you?” He would say to me at dinner time.

Or do you think we could pay those Japanese to keep you?”

It hurt my feelings. One day I realized that it was only his way of covering up his tender feelings of love for me and his having a hard time letting me go so far away. I went to the family room where he was sitting in his chair. I sat on the arm of the chair and put my arm around his shoulders. “I’m sure glad that I understand when you say things like that to me that it’s just your way of saying you love me. Otherwise I might get my feelings hurt.” He was quiet for a minute but I saw tears brimming in his eyes. “Yep”, he finally said “its a good thing you know that.”

I remember one day I was throwing a fit of some kind and mother had about had it with me. She took me to Father. “I know exactly what she needs” he said, “she needs a little sugar to sweeten her up.” And he pulled a box of ding dongs from the closet and gave me one. then he let me climb up on the bed next to him and cuddle while we watched tv. 149692_449132820657_467824_n

I think my dad always knew that if he showed me he trusted me my guilty conscience wouldn’t allow me to disappoint him. I loved him so much that the thought of disappointing him was worse than any punishment I could be given.

I was never a touchy feely kind of person. I didnt like hugs except from my dad and because he was the only person that I would accept hugs from I wanted them all the time. He would always ask me how I was doing on getting my quota of hugs for the day. One day I was about 20 years old I was working in the kitchen when my dad came to me. He put one arm on each shoulder and looked me right in the eyes so that he had my full attention. “One day I’m going to die,” he told me. I started to protest but he cut me off. “You will come to my funeral and see me all laid out in the casket in my white clothes.” He walked me through the whole funeral finally he said, ” when you are standing at my grave side I want you to wait and when everyone has gone I will be there and I will give you a hug.”Thats my dad. I love him with everything in me. He is my rock.

1002636_767888493221636_1477277037_nAs I grew up and I made choices different than what he would have wanted me to make I have worried that I would disappoint him. One day we were riding in the car. He had had a stroke and the doctor had told us that he could go at any time. we were driving and he told me ” Im glad that we get to spend some time together, I know ive never said it much but I wanted to make sure that you knew that I love you.”

I do know that. I told him. But I worry that I have disappointed you in some of my decisions.

He knew exactly what I was talking about. Vilate, he said, You decided to be a Mormon, so just be the best Mormon you can be and I will never be disappointed in you. unnamed

AS my dad’s health continued to decline I worried that he would never see me get married, never get to meet my children. But he has continued to hang on, continued to pull out of each stroke that he has had. When he came in the room just an hour or two after my baby was born and held him I thought my heart would burst. When he knocked on my bedroom
door later that night because he wanted to tell us goodnight I was touched at his sweet affection for us. I smiled when he held Preston in his arms and called him puddin head. It had been awhile since I had heard him call anyone that.

I know that one day my dad will leave this life, and leave me behind. But until that day I will enjoy every minute I have with him. I will tell him how much I love him, I will enjoy watching my baby play with him and I will know that when he goes he isn’t very far away. I love you Father!wykDibs6NOvmOTTC3Ie7KV3eCo3zUGcmahsy_M-G4Yk,3dCQrrcEuJYpMAneLr7gi3dqsuzXu7FqPZ6qNxlGerw

 

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Off we go on an adventure!

I remember when I was a little girl, going into our storage room and just standing there looking at all the food. I would imagine that we fell on hard times and had to ration the food to make sure it was going to last. Eventually that would lead to daydreaming about Ethiopia. As every kid knows Ethiopia is where are the really poor kids are that would be happy for your oatmeal mush. I would day-dream that I would go there with nothing but a handful of corn and little by little I would work my way into owning a mansion and employing dozens of locals and completely changing the village that I lived in. That’s what I day dreamed about when I was nine years old and supposed to be doing the laundry.

Yesterday, I got some exciting news. I am going to Uganda. Not with a handful of corn and not to make my fortune but to hopefully make an impact in the lives of the women who live there. I am going to be working with a company called Musana that is dedicated to helping the women of Uganda better their lives by providing work and an opportunity to learn some new skills. The wanderer in me couldn’t be more please with this opportunity to once again embark on a journey outside of the country. The story-teller in me couldn’t be more satisfied with the plethora of stories that I will undoubtedly have to tell about the people there, their experiences, and my life there as well. I am excited for all the ways that I know I will grow and for all the friendships that I will make. This experience is going to change my life forever. There are just three things that I am worried about.

imgres-2The first as you might guess is money. As a student it is not something that I have just lying around waiting for me to decide to take a trip to Africa. The university will give me a scholarship that will help but I am still going to need to come up with about $2000.

url-2The second thing that I am concerned about, and this might seem silly to most of you, but it’s not silly to me, it’s very VERY real and very VERY scary and well…it’s SPIDERS. icky, wiggly, hairy, leggy spiders. What if they crawl on me in my sleep? What if they… well I don’t know exactly what they could do but I know that just by being there crawling in their creepy little way its scary. And what is even more scary is that they might not be so very little. I picked the least scary, most harmless looking spider I could find because even seeing one on my blog is terrifying.

My last concern is without a doubt the most difficult and the only one that really gives me pause about going. And that is my dad. When I was little I remember my dad having breakfast with us when it was over he would roll up his bib cross the ties across the top put his hat on his head and say “that’s all folks” then he would do a little jib as he walked down the hallway through the kitchen and just before he turned the corner he would lift his hat to us and say see you later alligator!

The other day after dinner he finished eating and told my mom he was ready to go back to his room. slowly he turned his legs toward the side of the chair and my mom held on to his hands and pulled him to his feet. He stood there a little shaky trying to get his balance before he slowly shuffled from the room hanging on to her arm. As I watched him go I thought of my old “papadoplous” and his funny little jigs, and his playful attitude. I thought about him going off to work everyday to provide for us and I wondered if I can really go for three months not knowing if he will still be here when I get back. Saying goodbye is going to be difficult no matter what the circumstances but I don’t want to say goodbye when I leave for Africa and have him die while I am gone. I want to be here with him during his last days.

To be honest I don’t want him to go at all. A girl just shouldn’t have to lose her dad at my age. I’m not ready for that and I don’t think I will ever be ready for that. But…I also don’t think he would want me to continue to live my life in fear of him going. I don’t think he would want me to turn down opportunities. So I am going. I will pray that he will be ok. That I will come back and get to tell him all about my adventures there. He will probably even think that he went with me!149692_449132820657_467824_n

There is nothing good about good-bye

Its something I’ve never been very good at. I don’t know if that’s because it wasn’t something that I experienced very often in the first 20 years or so of my life, or if either way I would have had the same struggle with letting go and saying goodbye.

I remember when each of my older sisters got married and in a sense I said goodbye to them. I said goodbye to the life that we had together, I said goodbye to sharing everything with them and I knew they would change tremendously so in a sense it was saying goodbye to the person that they were. Soon they would be mom’s and wives and they would leave me behind.

I remember when Aunt Hannah died. She was about the closest person to me that I had ever experienced losing. I remember wondering if I would ever have a day where I didn’t ache with missing her. Its been about 18 years since she died. I still miss her but not only are there days when I don’t ache but there are often weeks where I don’t really even think about her if I’m honest. Somehow life has resumed and while I loved her and still do, and while I do think of her often with fondness and a little sadness that she is gone, I have moved on, found peace, and it is not something that really affects my life anymore.

Joining the LDS church was saying goodbye in a way that I hope I never experience again. It was saying goodbye to everything all at once. It hurt more than anything ever has and it hurt for a very long time. In fact it was something that I shed tears over probably almost on a daily basis for the first 6 years or so.

Sometimes saying goodbye is something that happens all at once, like when our dog Meg was put to sleep. One minute she was there and the next she was not. Like when my Grandma Vilate and my Great Grandma were hit by a truck as they were crossing the street together. One minute they were two little old ladies enjoying an afternoon together, we were planning to visit as soon as our schedule and our lives settled down. The next they were gone.

Other times it happens slowly. Like with my dad. Over the last couple of years I have watched as little by little I lose my dad. He is still here, he is still alive and actually doing pretty well which is something that I am so grateful for. But he is not the dad that I knew. He is not strong, and jolly and wise. He is old and frail and forgetful. I cant go to him for advice because he can’t remember what the question was long enough to give me much of an answer. I can’t count on him to be there for me because he is more like a child than a man. I love him, he is still my hero, my rock, and I will always love him. I’ve actually been glad that he is going slowly. It gives me a chance to make those adjustments to him not really being there while I can still put my arms around him and hear him call me his little ladybug. I can still hear his voice as he whistles popcorn popping. I can still see the twinkle in his eye. One day I know I will lose that too but I am glad that I get to make this adjustment a little at a time.

And that brings me to the crux of this post. Ryan is moving to Hawaii. I know I should be ok with it. I have felt for some time now that its ok that we are not together, that I believe we can be happier with someone else. The problem is that I love him. I love him so much that I didn’t even know how much until he showed up at my house unannounced and told me that he is leaving. In just a couple short weeks he will be gone from my life for at least two years. It might as well be forever. I can’t say goodbye to him all at once. I need it to slowly die out while we can still be friends, can still see each other and still be a part of each others lives. I wanted to slowly grow apart.

I really wasn’t hanging on to hope that things would change and we would get back together. I wasn’t. But I also wasn’t ready to let go of him completely. Ryan was so much more than my boyfriend. He was my best friend and the one person that I felt completely myself with. He was the person whom I loved so much that it hurt. He was my first kiss and my first love. He was… well there just aren’t words. When he told me, I wasn’t expecting the hammer that slammed down in the pit of my stomach almost making me lose the dinner that I hadn’t eaten yet. I wasn’t expecting the room to start to spin or the tears that came almost uncontrollably and certainly unwelcome to my eyes. I wasn’t expecting my esophagus to suddenly swell to twice its normal size and make it difficult for me to breathe. I wasn’t expecting the panic that set in after he left as I realized that I would have to say goodbye to him for good and there was nothing I could do about it.

I tried to compose myself to talk to him like a sane, rational person. I kept my voice calm, I kept my mouth in the shape of a smile so that I wouldn’t cry and I talked to him about the things he wanted to talk about. But all the while I just wanted him to hold me and tell me that it was all going to be ok and that he loved me still and that he was leaving…but I could go with him. I wanted to beg and plead with him to see reason. To see that no one will ever love him as much as I do or that no one will ever make him as happy as I can.

In the end I did cry. When he tried to say goodbye and he did give me a hug. The familiar feel of his arms around me broke whatever reserve I had and the tears flowed shamefully. I want to tell him I love him. I need to tell him I love him. I need to hear him tell me the same. What I don’t want, what I don’t know how to do…is say goodbye.