He was diagnosed with Parkinson's about 12 years ago and from that developed an insidious type of dementia called Lewy Bodies, which causes a lot of physical issues and accelerates the Parkinson's decline. Basically he was served a shit sandwich with a side of fuck my life.
My dad was a quirky guy with a weird sense of humor. He used to play with me by chasing me around the house with a hammer and pretend he was going to smash my little toes. He would pack our lunches with a dog treat that he carefully tin foiled so when we would open it up at lunch all the other kids would laugh and scream. He made us waffles with ice cream in the middle for breakfast and ONLY creamed corn for dinner. He drank buttermilk from the carton. And prune juice.
He was private. He would take hour long poops just to be alone and think. He was a scientist and mathematician. He was always trying to work out these insanely impossible to solve equations in his head, which he would. He was brilliant. I sucked all the balls when it came to math, and that seemed so bizarre to him. His solution was to torture me for hours and hours at night by making me do math problems on our giant white board in the hallway. I fucking hated it, but this was his idea of fun!
He would come to into my classrooms most years to guest teach a science day. I loved it, because my dad was so smart and he was probably much smarter than anyone else's dad. He would do kid friendly experiments, like make invisible ink or slime. He would write "Amy Is A Dope" which would appear when he showed the kids how the ink experiment worked. Everyone would laugh and point at me, and I would roll my eyes and shake my head, like "There he goes again!" It was like something out of a black and white sitcom.
When we moved to Minnesota he found out they were starting a women's only ice hockey team and encouraged me to try it. I did, and at first I was terrible, but he came to every game and practice. He was so into the fact that I was playing this game that I had no business playing! By the time I quit after three years I had actually gotten pretty good and it was because he never let me miss practice, even if it was at 5am outside in the freezing friggin' cold. In fact he woke me up and dragged me to the car, then stood outside and watched us in the dark.
He was tough. He grew up in a time where he often had to fight off bullies just because he was Jewish. That made me proud. I like that my dad, who was really no taller than my height now of 5'4", could kick some ass. He woke up before the sun every day and did these exercises in his underpants, which I later learned was the Israeli Army work out, but with these 15 pound hand weights.
When I lived in New York I would work off and on at this charming little piano bar called Brandy's on the Upper East Side. My dad loved those kind of places, something I didn't really know about him before. We went there one evening so he could hear me sing. I sang Natural Woman and I think the pianist and crowd thought he was my sugar daddy boyfriend, which I mentioned as we walked out. He was more concerned about the term "sugar daddy". "Like the candy?" he asked. "Whats the origin of that term?"
At this point he has started to show signs of the Parkinson's and had a slight tremor. I felt overwhelmingly protective of him when he was in New York. Everywhere we went I was his body guard, ready to straight up fight if anyone looked at him oddly. On the subway one day he had his hand in his pocket and it was shaking from the tremors. I thought, "Oh Jesus, someone is going to think my dad's one of those "jerk off on the subway" guys!" I got up and stood in front of him, trying to block the view of his hand in his pocket. Again, because I'm an asshole and thought it was funny to say shocking things to my elderly father, told him that I did that as we exited the train. He laughed and said he would never do that on the A train! It's way too dirty and crowded in there!
We went to Coney Island on another on of his New York trips together. And Tavern on the Green. His last trip he met my boyfriend, soon to be husband Nick, and told me later how thrilled he was that I was marrying such an amazing, bright guy. I jokingly said, "But Dad, he's not a Jew!" To which he replied, "How do you know?"
When I was about four my dad brought me to a playground in the neighborhood of where we were living in Palo Alto, a yellow house we were renting. I was playing in the sand box with another little boy who kept yanking my toys out of my hand and throwing sand on me. My dad was quietly observing from across the park. He then calmly walked over and knelt down so he was level with the kid. He looked this little boy in the face and in almost a whisper said, "If you don't stop doing what you're doing, I'm going to bury your head in the fucking sand." The kid nodded, wide eyed, and quickly handed over all of my toys. He kept playing, very nicely now and with his head down the whole time, probably afraid to even leave. Every now and then he would glance up to see if my dad was still watching him. And he was. My dad was like the tiny Jewish Tony Soprano of that sandbox that day. It was so bad ass.
I loved my dad very much, and admired him. There were a million things I didn't know about him because he kept his feelings inside. I'm the opposite. My heart is exposed and beating for everyone to see and take a stab at. We were alike in as many ways as we were different. I wanted to be tough like him, and like dinosaurs and science-y stuff because he did. I wanted to be smart like he was so badly! If for nothing but to get the fuck away from that goddamn white board!
The other day I was at the park with Bo. She was playing with this rainbow colored ball which always incites riots because all the other kids want to play with it. Seriously, kids go apeshit for this ball. Suddenly this hyper little shit who's around four or so kept grabbing the ball away from her, and when his mom would scold him to play more nicely with my daughter, he would wait for her to turn away, then throw it hard back at Bo with this smug smile on his face.
I quietly watched from the side. Then the moment after he threw the ball again into my child's side I calmly walked up, knelt down so we were eye to eye. And in a whisper said, "We are done with your bullshit today, do you understand me?" He kid nodded, wide eyed. He handed the ball back to my kid and continued to play, but nicely, and every so often would look over at me to see if I was still watching. And I was.
Just like my dad.
I love you Daddy! I miss you so much, but you're always with me. Especially when it comes to taking care of the bullies.