August 29, 2016

it's all love, all love.


The quarter is from my birth year. It hung on my dad's work keys he used every day to get in and out of buildings and into his giant tool box. When I found it in one of his hospital bags, I sat on the floor and cried big ugly crocodile tears because it cemented in my mind just how much my dad loved me. 

My dad and I didn't have the best relationship when I was growing up. When my parents got divorced, part of their terms were that I had to spend every other weekend with my dad. In hindsight, I have come to see the beauty and the value in those weekends we spent together... But at the time, in my angsty teenage brain, I loathed every weekend where I had to pack a bag to leave. 

Right after the divorce, my dad moved to Illinois. We did fun stuff then. We stayed up late on Friday nights, belting out '80s music from WKTI on the drive down 894 across the state line. We saw midnight movies and he always bought us popcorn, Dots gum drops, and Milk Duds. We went bowling. We did laundry together—every time I fold blankets now, I still remember running to him with the other end of the blanket. 

When he eventually moved back up to Wisconsin to be closer to me, our relationship took a nosedive. I entered puberty and my dad pulled away hard. He hung out with his friends more. Our weekends together went from being fun and exciting to us sitting in the garage with his friends. Sometimes they would work on their cars. Mostly they just smoked cigarettes and drank beer. I spent a lot of my weekends sitting inside watching Cartoon Network and Trading Spaces on TLC. I used my dad's free night and weekend cell phone minutes to talk to my friends. 

He stopped showing up to activities I was in. I used to do a lot of school and community theatre, and I always wanted my dad to be there. Seeing everyone else in the cast have their dad supporting them broke my heart because all I wanted was to see him in the audience cheering me on. When I was going through a box of his things before the funeral, I found programs from two of the last shows I ever performed in. That made me so happy. 

As I got older, I called my dad out on his bullshit. Or my mom did it for me because I would be uncontrollably sobbing in the background because I was so mad and hurt that he couldn't show me he loved me. My senior year of high school was when things between us got better. I came to love hanging out with my dad in the garage, watching him work on his Nova or later, the Monte Carlo. 

The last day we spent together before he was hospitalized, we did exactly that. He drove me up to Milwaukee in the Monte. We went to the Oak Creek Diner for lunch and then headed to the airport where my dad's toolbox is. I watched him change out the steering wheel in the Monte and got to hold screws and hand him his tools as needed. He made me the official horn tester—a title I coveted at four years old in the shop. I'll cherish that memory forever, our last good day doing exactly what we always did: hanging out in the garage together. 

Finding that quarter on his work keys told me, "Hey, dad always loved you. You were always with him." That thought was further cemented by my family—not only my immediate family, but by the Gutermuth family as well. My Aunt Lisa gave his eulogy at the funeral. Her words touched me deeply, and I won't ever forget the words she said about his love for me. "His love for his daughter Anna was special. He always lit up whenever he talked about her." That sentiment was also echoed to me by all of his friends. My dad loved me. 

Padre, I miss you. I love you so much. Thank you for the reminder, that you're always there. And thank you, always, for the unconditional love. 

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