I was 10 weeks pregnant when my sister called to tell me that my dad had unexpectedly died of a heart attack. At that moment, everything about my dad whirled through my mind all at once—the crinkle of his eyes when he laughed, the swagger of his walk, the intonation of his voice when he called me “Little One” and how he sang “Under the Boardwalk” out of tune. How was I going to go on? What would the world be like? How was I going to be a mother without him? Ironically, how was I going to cope with his death without his guidance?
My dad taught me to believe I could do anything I wanted to and it didn’t necessarily have to be girly. He admired John Wayne and often wore a cowboy hat. After many requests for a “horsey ride,” he used to hum the "Lone Ranger" theme song while bouncing me on his knee. He took me to an outdoor shooting range so that I would know how to load and shoot a gun. He taught me how to climb a tree with complete confidence, how to cook a proper steak, hike, fish (even though we never caught anything) and survive in the wilderness.
He let me know that I could be independent without relying on him and my mom, or eventually, a husband. He encouraged my wild imagination. Now, looking back, I envy that 7-year-old version of me who was so unafraid.
At 28 years old, I found out I was pregnant by a man I had known a mere couple of months. Needless to say, I was scared to reveal to my parents—especially my dad—that not only would I be getting married at the end of the summer to a man they didn’t know but that I was also seven weeks pregnant with their first grandchild. I could hear Madonna serenading me the lyrics of “Papa Don’t Preach” and imagined scenarios where I was yelled at and chastised for my poor decisions. When I did tell my parents via FaceTime, I was so relieved and happy to see my dad tear up and say, “Oh, I’ve waited a long time to be a grandparent.”
My dad loved nature, peace and quiet. Remembering this while I was pregnant, I meditated just about everyday and practiced birthing affirmations.
I had my eyes closed and had no idea how this was happening but somehow I felt his spirit in the room.
After his death, I was scared knowing that I would be going through the challenges of motherhood without his calming presence. During my daughter’s birth, while I was in a particularly difficult push of passing my daughter’s shoulders, my midwife started chanting, “Good, good, good”—my dad’s catchphrase for everything. I had my eyes closed and had no idea how this was happening but somehow I felt his spirit in the room. With every push came that chant, “Good, good, good,” and before I knew it, everyone in the room was repeating, “Good, good, good.” I knew then and there he would always be with me.
Now, having my daughter, Piper, I feel how much my dad emanates from me. Sometimes when she smiles, the skin around her eyes crinkles like my dad’s. The other day, in a hopeless frenzy of baby shrieks and cries, I found myself bouncing her on my knee and humming the "Lone Ranger" theme song. And whenever I refer to Piper as “Little One” or hit a wrong note while singing her to sleep, I choke up just a little bit thinking of my dad.
He really is still here—through me. I think dealing with the loss of a parent during pregnancy was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through, but then I realized that because of this loss, I’m a more feeling and loving mother. Piper is his legacy. Maybe one day, when she is trying to comfort her child, she will unknowingly hum the "Lone Ranger" theme song or sing out of tune. Maybe her child will even have those crinkles around his eyes when he or she laughs? Despite Piper not knowing her grandfather, his legacy will live on.
I now see that I get to love my daughter with all the love my dad gave me. I have an added layer of patience because of him. I have wisdom and life advice because of him. I will continue to pass on all that I know and all that I love to Piper and hope that one day she will do the same. Life is unpredictable but I take solace by honoring my father’s memory by living in the now, and I honor him by being the best mom I can be, using the gifts he gave me.