July 6, 2021

My Dad’s Death showed me how to get the Most out of Life.

Summer (when I was a kid) always involved lazy days at the beach, roller skating, hanging out with friends, or just lounging on the couch watching game shows or some silly sitcom, like Gilligan’s Island.

It was a chance to play board games with friends, to go to fun classes with arts and crafts, to play ball in the cul-de-sac, or to just lie on the grass and look up at the clouds.

What I enjoyed most about summer, though, was family road trips to national parks with my mom, dad, and brother. I miss those days of abandon.

Being an adult means having responsibilities; it means having a job so you can afford to have a roof over your head, food on the table, and support your family.

This is life though, right? It’s not like I’m new to this adulting thing. I’m in my mid-40s, so I’ve had a few years of doing this. It just feels sort of different now.

I lost my dad to Lewy Body Dementia/Parkinson’s Disease, and it’s going on two years this August.

My dad was always there for me, and I knew I could rely on him because he was so dependable. He was the type of dad who would come over to my house early on a Saturday morning and rake the leaves in my yard before I’d even gotten out of bed.

As a single mom, I appreciated how he would step in and take my daughter to school or to after-school activities when I had to work—he was the rock-solid one in our family.

When he passed, I had to take on a lot more responsibility and I felt off-kilter.

How did my dad do it?

How did he handle responsibility and still lead a balanced life?

I began to think about how my dad set an example for me on balancing responsibilities and enjoying life. Although he worked long hours as a dispatcher for a truck and crane company, he made time for doing the things he loved.

He sang bass in a barbershop quartet; he found such joy in this. He and his fellow quartet members would get so excited at the end of a song when they would harmonize and “ring a chord.” He also enjoyed leading the music as the church chorister—music was his passion.

His other passion was his family. I fondly remember evenings spent playing catch with my dad in front of our house, going on Sunday drives up the coast or in the mountains, and always stopping to get ice cream at Foster Freeze on the way home. I recall our Friday ritual of getting a pizza and watching a movie we rented from Blockbuster.

And the moments with him in later years, too—he spent his evenings as the ultimate grandpa, letting my daughter paint his fingernails pink.

My dad’s death made me realize how short life is, and how I need to get the most out of my life.

As I watch my 14-year-old daughter laugh and act silly with her teenage friends, I hearken back to the simpler times of my childhood. I think about the seasons of life, my dad, and where I am in my life at this moment.

I grab my tennis racket and go down to the courts with my daughter and chuckle as she teases me on how I run to the net to chase down balls like I’m Venus Williams.

I hike with my mom and smell the fresh pine trees and listen to the creek as it rushes by. I planned a summer road trip this year to Lassen National Park to continue our summer adventures.

I remember my dad and how he found that balance in life that I’m seeking.

He taught me how to do it by following my passions and enjoying the little moments.


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Kersti Burningham Lewis  |  Contribution: 6,760

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