I finally brought Ol' Blue home this month. There is still so much to learn about this 1961 Chevy I inherited from my father. As I get to know her on a more intimate level, I am gaining far more than just mechanical knowledge, and more about my dad, myself, and personal wellness. With every wash, repair, and drive I feel my dad's presence strongly and his favorite phrase, "Happy Days," echoes in my head.
Friends and family who knew my dad before his cancer was discovered, a little over ten years ago now, knew him as a stern and disciplined man, always leading those around in him in the right direction thanks to his trusty moral compass. After the first appearance of his brain tumor, my dad changed. His morals and values remained deeply #rooted, but he began to relax a bit and live more in the moment. When you asked him how he was doing, he would reply with a big genuine grin and the words, "Happy Days." Instead of good bye, it was always "Happy Days." He even recorded his voicemail greeting as "Happy Days. Please leave a message." These same words are etched on his tombstone and I think about them often.
The last ten years were full of worry for my mom, my sister, and me. He endured two craniotomies, weeks of radiation treatment and chemotherapy, diminishing eye site, and spells of dizziness. The three of us exuded positivity and optimism but deep down we struggled with his prognosis. As a family, we kept on #livingfully and within those ten years my dad was able to marry me off, greet four grandchildren to the world, celebrate and mourn the life of his very best friend on the planet and his two loving parents, with whom he held close. He moved to a nearby Virginia Beach neighborhood and even started to write a book! My dad got his affairs in order and prepared my sister, mom, and I (even when we objected) for life without him. He knew when the end of his life was approaching and he didn't rush to check off the items on his bucket list (if he even had one), or spend his money foolishly. Instead he spent his days at home with his family. He hung out with his friends, reconnected with those who were meaningful to him, made countless hospital (and funeral) visits to loved ones, spent hours on the phone with his family in Michigan, wrestled playfully with his grandchildren, and doted on the love of his life, my mom. Even in his final moments, he was able to muster out, "Happy Days"- the words that hold such a significant meaning in my life today.
This mantra is so simple, yet profound! When I hear these words, my perspective is recalibrated and my focus shifts to the many blessings before me. Those simple words provide comfort and joy. At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, not long after my father's funeral, I felt like the universe was sending me a big flashing warning sign to slow down, stay home, reconnect to my true self and find gratitude for what's in front of me. I immediately took action. I read books for hours and took mental snapshots of my kids’ smiles. I meditated, ran, and spent time with my sister and her children, the time I have not been afforded in years. We mourned my father’s death over and over again, letting the tears fall where they did.
Now we are in Phase III of the pandemic, and we allowed to leave our homes. We opened the doors to our wellness center to provide nurturing, strength, support and love to our customers and clients. My kids went back to school and with the extra time afforded to me, I scheduled the appointments, meetings, and reunions that I missed during quarantine. Quickly the pressures and demands of life began knocking frantically at my door again.
Just as I was beginning to slip back into an unsustainable speed of life, the sun rose and it was my dad's birthday. I can’t help but to laugh at the timing. As a family, we celebrated at the cemetery and I read those words again, "Happy Days." I felt the sun kiss my face and the small breeze which floated across the memorial cemetery soothed me. I imagined my father resting. The energy I felt between my family radiated and the gratitude in my heart was profound! Once again, I felt comfortable, at ease, and #well. I smiled.
Damn right, Papa, "Happy Days." Thank you for the reminder to slow down and enjoy what is right in front of me. Happy Birthday!