Category Archives: Dad

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Who needs a/c when you have fake hips?

hipMy Dad worked in the biomedical engineering department of a hospital for my entire pre-adult life. That department was responsible for A LOT of things relating to hospital equipment and tools, but one of the “perks” was that they also tended to be privy to the waste from the hospital because there’s tons of tools/equipment you can’t just put in the garbage can when you don’t want/need it anymore.

And – as my Dad would always joke – he was the only one in the department without a wife at home telling him he couldn’t bring home stuff to play with, so! Our house was full of weird/interesting/unusual items rescued from certain death at the hospital. At one point in time the bookends in our living room were a radon detector and a microscope. He had a tool used in surgeries (an old one getting replaced by something new) to grab things – imagine a tiny trash grabber like they use on the side of the highway – that he kept in the kitchen. “What was it for?” you might ask. Well! It was a drawstring retrieval system, of course! When he would lose his drawstring in his sweatpants that thing was PERFECT to get it out.

So, yeah. Weird stuff in our house. We didn’t have central heat or a/c but DAMMIT…We had discarded blood pressure cuffs!

He really didn’t like seeing things that could be used, going to waste. He build pieces of furniture out of the good wooden shipping boxes some of the more expensive equipment would come in. He used bilirubin light bulbs that still worked but didn’t fit new machines, IN OUR HOUSE. We had one in our kitchen that served as a nightlight. A nurse friend of mine joked once, “Did all the jaundiced babies hang out in your kitchen?” He had TONS of interesting things he would try to make useful, or even sometimes just bring home to play with or save because he thought SOMEDAY! Someday this will come in handy!

Of course, when our house flooded in 1993 (don’t ask why/how) it became a water-logged disaster. He rented one of those bins to throw everything away in (after putting the roof on the house too) and the guys that came to pick up the bin spent hours digging through it first because it was filled with some of the CRAZIEST SHIT.

The fake hips/shoulders were the best. He had several of those. They all are marked “demo” or “display” so I’m assuming it was something a doctor used to explain the item to a patient, but who knows why they were getting thrown out or replaced. Either way, my Dad thought they were WAY too cool to go to the garbage. My brother has several of them and actually built a really awesome light out of them. I kept one. And it stays on my “Dad” shelf. I keep waiting for the one day someone comes over and says, “Wait. Is that a fake hip on that shelf?”

Yes. Yes it is. What do you ask?

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The Sadz Demand To Be Felt.

I’ve found myself a little sad these last couple days because I seem to be missing my Dad a little more than usual. I’m dealing with the sads by eating all of the vegan foods in all of the land. I’m going to be the first morbidly obese vegan in the history of the planet.

So, I sat down to write yesterday morning like I always do and just couldn’t because I was all, “Wah. The Sads.”

It’s funny because, to my logical brain it makes sense that some days I’m going to really be sad about missing my Dad. He’s gone! I loved him! That makes sense! But the insecure emotional side is all, “FIVE YEARS, Kim. No one wants to hear you still whining about your Dad FIVE YEARS later.”

But Day 2 and I sat down to write and all I could think was, “Wah. The Sads.”

The funny thing is what has triggered this sadness. Well, one thing is funny and one thing is interesting. The first thing is: My laptop is dying. It’s been struggling for awhile but it seems it might be knocking on deaths door. It was a gift from my Dad and my Brother in 2008 and my Dad died in 2009. This means I am super-duper sentimentally attached to the thing and when I look at it on the table, knowing it might not power back up again (issues with batteries, power supplies, and fans…also the hardware is now too old for any updates in software) and I tear up a little.

Basically, my laptop is making me sad. Which my Dad would find funny.

The other thing which is more interesting than funny is that I’m really getting into Ironman Mode. Donnie has been training so hard for months already and we’re almost to the 6 week countdown. (That’s not a real thing to anyone but me, by the way.) And man, my Dad would LOVE to see this. First of all, he loved Chattanooga with all of his heart. Second of all? He loved Donnie. In 2005 he traveled out west to see my brother do an Ironman and he came home just fascinated by the whole thing. He’s the first one who told me about strippers. (I love saying that sentence. It never stops being funny.) Strippers rip the wetsuits off the athletes after they come out of the water. He thought my brother was insane, of course, but he loved being there witnessing the insanity. And I think he’d really love to see the same insanity in one of his favorite cities.

So. Laptop. Ironman. Missing Dad.

Thanks for letting me dump out my Sadz all over the place, I kinda annoy myself blogging about that stuff, but then the Not Blogging about it makes it worse because Blogging is my therapy so, you know, I’d save us all time if I just got it out on Day 01.

And so that I don’t just end this entry on a “Wah. I has the sadz.” note, I’ll add a little bit of exciting news to the mix.

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Someone passed the swim test at the Y and finally got his white band! He didn’t stress as much about the test as his sister did (she can swim a 600yd workout and still hates that they make her retake the 25m swim test at Kid’s Night Out) but he hadn’t passed it yet because they don’t let you take a Swim On Your Back break as you cross the 25yd pool, and my kids love those breaks. I’ve taught them if they panic, or get too tired, flip on their back, don’t go to the side. So, great life lesson, not so great with passing the swim test so you can swim without your Mom by your side.

But he did it! He is so very excited!

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5 Years.

5 years ago today – my Dad died after a late-stage cancer diagnosis and 5 weeks in hospice care. It was a seemingly fast death, considering it was from cancer. The diagnosis had just been a few weeks before he went into hospice. This was the eulogy I read at his funeral and I share it out every year on the anniversary of his death. I was blessed to have had him for the 62 years, and I’m grateful for that, but what I wouldn’t give to have just one more day with him. I miss him so dearly.

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Eulogy: Read April 2, 2009.

Donnie and I were talking one weekend in the car on the way into town. We were discussing traits I may or may not have gotten from Dad. Things I’m proud to have inherited, like his love of geography and things that have caused me worlds of problems, like the insanely curly hair. I was thinking about how my parenting reflects the way Dad parented us and I said, “You know -Dad was an extremely selfless parent.”

I’ve been a Mom now for 14 years. Many times in those 14 years, I’ve needed to take breaks. Sometimes I take the kids to a babysitter while we go to dinner, or see a movie, or even just run errands. I have a lot of friends who are also parents and they’ll agree with me in those breaks being a necessity. I don’t know of anyone who has ever said, “A break? Nah, I don’t need one!”

Except for Dad.

Dad enjoyed being a parent so much that parenting was his break from the rest of his life. Not only did he NEVER take a break from being our Dad, no matter how crazy we were acting, but he always claimed parenting us was EASY. He said raising us was the easiest thing he ever did. This proved one thing for sure: Dad had a different definition of “easy” in his head than I did.

Dad went above and beyond the regular requirements of a parent. He coached soccer for both of our teams. This was especially difficult for me since I have absolutely no natural athletic skill whatsoever. He took me to gymnastics and both of us to piano lessons. He helped us with science fair projects (we always had the best ones, of course) and book reports. He took us to museums and to the library.

And that’s just the beginning.

As we got older he found ways to stay involved in our lives. He traveled to see us play sports all through high school and stayed up late many nights to wait for us to get home so he could hear how our school functions went. I remember one time, as a Senior in high school, he ended up driving a car full of my squealing friends from Camp John Knox to Knoxville and back one night so that we wouldn’t have to miss a Y-Teen rally for our Senior trip. If you’ve never been trapped in a car for an hour with more than five hyper-active teenage girls you many not realize how charitable of a gesture this was. You’ll just have to trust me. It is considered a war crime in some parts of the world.

The funny thing is? Dad loved it. He loved nothing more than just being a fly on the wall when C and I were around our friends. He often considered our friends and their parents his own peer group. He joked that when we graduated from high school he lost a lot of his social circle in the parents of our friends.

One time I volunteered Dad to chaperone a field trip for my biology class when I was a Senior. He was given a group of freshmen to be in charge of and realized immediately that it was more of a formality than anything. Those freshmen didn’t need or want him to be in charge. That didn’t keep him from trying his best to at least memorize all of their names on the way to Chattanooga. Dad didn’t know how to do anything halfway.

He took me shopping for prom dresses in high school. He even managed to fake enthusiasm (in between yawns, of course) as I tried on dozens of outfits. Let’s just say that raising a teenage daughter is a difficult task for anyone, but for a single Dad? There just aren’t words, I’m sure. And he still rose to the challenge.

His selflessness raising us to adulthood knew no limits. But it didn’t stop there. C and I both have leaned on his shoulder several times as adults. He continued to be our best cheerleader as he traveled out west to see C do his Ironman and came to Nashville to watch me run/walk my marathon. Even just in the last year or so he spent a week in Tucson helping C tile his home and spent a week in Alabama helping take care of Nikki when I was recovering from my c-section. Anytime we asked for him to help us, he did. Never once putting anything before us.

Essentially, he put his whole life on hold while he raised us, letting his own personal dreams and goals fall to the wayside. I think that’s the hardest part about losing him now, I don’t feel like he ever got to live his own life. Maybe if he hadn’t been so busy watching me try on hot-pink satin prom dresses, he could have hiked the Appalachian Trail or written a book.

But I’ll try not to focus on that and instead focus on the sacrifices he made for us and do my best to repay him by making similar sacrifices for my own family.

But don’t count on me driving a car full of teenage girls anywhere. I know my limitations.

I know I’ll face many pains in my heart in the years to come as things unfold in my life that I know he would have been excited to hear about. I told him everything, from getting picked on in 2nd grade to learning how to rack servers a few months ago. I told him about new books I discovered and new challenges I faced as a Mom. He was always there.

When trying to decide what to say today, I just thought this was a side of Dad worth telling you all about tonight. The side you may not have been aware of – the amazing selfless father who was more than just a Dad to us. More often than not – was our best friend.

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Hiking with Nyoka in 2006 on Green Mountain. We were taking selfies long before it was cool.

In Defense Of Selfies

Kids These Days

I saw a surly tween girl the other day, standing in the clothing section at Target, making a duckface into her phone and snapping a selfie. OH. MY. GOD. I wanted to make fun of her SO BAD. She took several, adjusting her bangs and her lips each time. Tilting her head the OTHER way. Raising her eyebrows. I watched her take…maybe 10 selfies before she dropped the phone down, tapped a few times, and then LAUGHED HER ASS OFF.

It was BEAUTIFUL. I don’t know if she was laughing at her own face as she posted to Instagram, or her friend’s snapchat reaction, or a funny text from her brother (that’s what usually makes ME laugh that hard) but whatever happened on her phone moments after the selfie? Made her smile the most beautiful smile on the planet.

And I suddenly remembered all of the articles and tweets and Facebook posts I’ve seen lately bashing the act of taking selfies: It’s narcissistic! It’s stupid! It’s trivial! It’s making us all self-centered and hyper-aware of our own appearances! KIDS THESE DAYS!

What we need to understand is that a lot of these selfies? Are for someone. Maybe that tween at Target was sending a picture to her boyfriend and saying, “UG. Shopping with Mom. Shoot me now.” And that picture made her boyfriend smile. Maybe the Harry Styles looking guy in his college cafeteria is sending a snapchat to his Mom that says, “Just ate my weight in soft serve.” Maybe the girls posing together at H&M are posting a picture onto Instagram that says, “BFFs!”

I mean – yes – there are plenty of tweens and teens and young adults on Instagram and Snapchat and posting selfies for no one but themselves and it’s narcissistic and they’re going to grow up to be unaware of their role in the world as it relates to their community.

But you know what? That tendency was there BEFORE they had a smartphone. The smartphone didn’t birth that personality trait into them.

Most of these kids are just entertaining themselves or their friends or their family and SOMEONE is getting a kick out of it. It’s not to entertain YOU – the grumpy adult sick of the duckface – it’s for their friends. Maybe a boyfriend. Maybe even a sibling or a parent. Chances are it’s going to bring a smile to someone’s face, even if it makes us scowl.

Documenting Moments

But on an even grander scale…it’s to document a moment in time. A moment that SHOULD be documented. Either to smile at later, or to fill in memories when you’re gone forever.

I used to store all of my photos on Flickr back before I had a smartphone that took high quality photos. I tagged EVERYTHING so I could find them easily. I had a tag that I started because of my Dad called: ArmsLength.

See? My Dad traveled the world a lot for work. He took his digital camera with him and always snapped pictures of himself at cool places. This tendency prevailed when we all got together as well, we always tried to take “Arms Length” photos as a group when we could.

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So now we have these hysterical group shots documented from Dad’s cameras. Yes, was it silly to group together for a selfie in a hotel lobby before a photo? OF COURSE IT WAS. Why do you think we’re laughing? It’s ridiculous! But now we have this photo of that day and it’s one of my favorite photo in the world.

But we also have loads of pictures now of Dad at cool places. Did anyone see him taking these photos and giggle? Maybe.

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But I took those photos and made a book out of them for my brother. I have some of them hanging on my refrigerator. I love these “Arms Length” photos SO MUCH. I love that my Dad – the least cool person on the planet – is the one that introduced me to the selfie.

So, unless someone taking a selfie is personally affecting YOU, stop worrying about it. There are two things that will make you change your mind about selfies.

1) Having a child go off to college where selfies becomes beautiful moments of communication where you look at your phone and sob BECAUSE YOU MISS THAT FACE SO MUCH.

2) Losing someone whose selfies become precious documents of lost moments.

In the future I’ll continue to momentarily scoff at people taking selfies, but it will be a temporary scoffing. Because I cherish selfies from my son and my Dad anyone who posts them on Facebook to bring a smile to my day.

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Hiking with Nyoka in 2006 on Green Mountain. We were taking selfies long before it was cool.

Dear Dad,

While there are tons of times I miss calling you, it’s never more frequent or more desperate than after a good trail run.

I ran a race Saturday that started in 2007. It occurred to me that if my first “attempt” at running in 2006 has been more successful – and not ended in an 8-hour marathon where I ran barely 10 of the 26 miles – I might have discovered trail running sooner. While there are things in my life every day that I hate you’re missing, I really feel strongly that you would have enjoyed my adventures trail running. I like to think you might have even joined me on some of them, although you were not a big fan of running distances longer than a 5K. You still loved hiking mile after mile and you were always planning when you’d finally take a go at the Appalachian Trail.

If you didn’t get into running the trails with me, I definitely would have taken you out to hike my favorite spots on the Mountain. I would have shown you Natural Well and Stone Cuts. Panther Knob (in the winter when you can see through the trees) and Warpath Ridge. I would have taken you along the Old Railroad Bed trails which I just discovered yesterday, and I would have made you hike up Waterline with me.

I know you loved spending some time up at Monte Sano when you came to visit, but you would have fallen in love with it like I have if I had discovered trail running before you died.

You would have also love the logistics of trail races. You thought my brother’s triathlons were so interesting, and even volunteered with him at a race or two. You were the first one who told me about strippers! (The kind that rip wet suits off of swimmers during a triathlon, of course.) I think you would have loved hearing about where they put flags on the course, how they stock aid stations, and big ribbons tied across trees to tell you which way NOT to go. (You would have glad those were there since you knew all to well my horrible natural sense of direction.) I think Saturday’s course changes and Mandatory Sharpie Use would have cracked you up. I’m certain you would have come out to these local trail races, if work permitted, just to give you an excuse to be in the woods and watch others enjoy it. I think you would have volunteered if you could have, just to be part of the action.

Dad looking over the top of Death Trail, long before I ever dreamed I'd be running it up some day.
Dad looking over the top of Death Trail, long before I ever dreamed I’d be running it up some day.

I also think you would have loved all of my trail running friends. You would have been fascinated to see so many people from so many walks of life, out there getting filthy and muddy running across the mountain. You would have sat at the finish line with me, cheering on every brave soul that made it up Death Trail. You would have been amazed to find how many were parents, or retired. It would be hard for you to believe that on Monday, some of these women wore makeup and got their nails done. That some of the men would be donning suits and clean shoes. The people element would have really interested you – to see that on a Saturday in the woods there were so many different types of people playing in the mud. It would have reminded you again how much you loved Huntsville.

And you would have just loved talking to all of my trail running friends. So many smart and funny and wonderful people in this little community, and you would have been so happy that I had found them. You would be shocked at how fast some of them are and you would be amazed at some of their stories of other longer and harder races they had done. You would have thought us all insane, but you would have read every race report I wrote and any of the ones I sent you from other local runners. You would have logged the lessons learned for your trip on the AT some day.

Hiking with Nyoka in 2006 on Green Mountain. We were taking selfies long before it was cool.
Hiking with Nyoka in 2006 on Green Mountain. We were taking selfies long before it was cool.

And I really hope you would have run with me sometime. You would have been faster than me on the road, your 5K time was a pretty consistent 25 minutes, but I like to think we would have been good trail running buddies. I do a lot of fast hiking on the tough uphills and I think I would have finally made up for all the times you took me hiking as a child and I whined and moaned about never getting breaks. I don’t take breaks on trail runs, Dad – I hope that shocks you as much as it does me.

Even though I whined about breaks when we would hike and camp, you still helped foster the love of the woods that is so strong today. My Sunday trail runs are a necessity since my time in the woods is as much of a therapy session as I could make with an actual therapist. I just love my hours surrounded by the trees and on the overlooks and through the mud…and you gave me that. You raised me camping and as an adult I have manifested that into trail running; and my time in the woods makes me miss you most of all.

I love you, Dad. It’s hard to believe it has been five years since I heard your voice.

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