I haven’t had my Dad for a whole lot of Father’s Days. Twenty-six, to be exact.
Yet even after all these years, I can still hear his voice.
Some of that has to do with the fact that we talked a lot on the phone, once a day, sometimes more. He good-naturedly dubbed me his “warden” because after Mom died in 1982, I’d check in on him so often.
Needless to say, I also visited him in person. At least once a week.
And, of course, always on Father’s Day.
After he suffered a serious heart attack, Dad and I shared a special Father’s Day ritual. He’d quit smoking cold turkey after 42 years of Lucky Strike non-filters. He was also a daily walker and took special care with his diet, favoring fruits, veggies, poultry and lean meats.
But every so often Dad would allow himself a splurge and one of those times was Father’s Day. His favorite indulgence was Kentucky Fried Chicken.
So on my way to Lakeville from my Dartmouth home, I’d make a quick swing into New Bedford, pick up a bucket of KFC with all the fixin’s, and head down to see him.
Along with the chicken, our day included a hearty helping of golf. Dad loved to golf and when my brother Mark and I were kids, he taught us to play.
On Father’s Dad, though, we weren’t out on the links. Instead, we’d always watch the U.S. Open on TV — and one in particular stands out.
We were comfortably settled in the family room of his Harcourt Avenue home. Except for college, I'd lived there until Hank and I got married in 1978.
Dad was in his favorite recliner while I put my feet up on the couch. Both of us dug into not-so-healthy-but-oh-so-tasty plates of fried chicken, potatoes and gravy, biscuits and cole slaw.
As we cut ourselves a blissful break, we watched golf.
One of the many things Dad taught me is that TV golf really can be exciting. I can hear the groans but it’s true. Watching with my father, I was totally caught up in the high drama of the Open, the 1988 Open.
After a number of near-misses, Curtis Strange finally won it all and as he did — on Father’s Day — he choked up. “This is for my father,” he said, in tribute to the dad who’d died when he was still in his teens.
I got teary, too, because Dad’s heart attack had been five months earlier. I knew in my heart I could have lost him — and I was so very grateful I still had him in my life.
As we finished the last of our chicken, we were too full to eat another bite. Dessert was out of the question.
But then again, I didn’t need it. Not on a Father’s Day that was already so incredibly sweet.