My Father, Martin Flemion—most knew him as Duke—passed away on March 13, 2014. During the last years of his life he struggled with Alzheimer’s. Memories of his extraordinary life slowly slipped away. As his memories faded, mine came to the forefront. While reminiscing to prepare his eulogy, moments from the special times we shared came to mind, a few stood out. I read this at his funeral, and, though husky-voiced, I managed to get through it.
I have a lot of early memories of my dad. He taught me to swim, to snap my fingers, and to whistle with my fingers in my mouth. But my favorite memories are of workday evenings when he would come through the door briefcase and lunchbox in hand. My brother and I were sprawled on the carpet in front of the TV watching I Love Lucy, my sister was in her room doing homework or talking on the phone to her boyfriend, Nan and Pop were resting before dinner, and Mom was in the kitchen cooking. It all felt good, but it didn’t feel right until Daddy got home. It was as if the house gave up a collective sigh when he came through the door.
So, when I think of my dad, it’s not so much a thought, but a feeling. He was home, he was love, he was the problem solver. And, oh yes, on those rare occasions, he was judge and jury to our acts of mischief and mayhem.
We all had our special times with Dad, our one-on-one adventures. Mine mostly consisted of the two of us trash-diving to find my missing retainer. School cafeterias, bowling alleys, skating rinks, the post movie theater . . . it was almost a weekly father-daughter date for us as we revisited many of those trash cans on a rotating basis.
But my favorite memory, one sure to surprise you, is the afternoon I fell face-first onto our blue-stone gravel driveway. Even though the cuts turned out to be fairly minor, by the time I managed to get into the house, wailing like a banshee of course, I was covered with blood. And that was exactly the way the way my grandmother described it to my dad when he arrived home half an hour later to find Mom and I missing. For years I loved hearing the story about how his face had paled, how he had dropped everything, then ran back to the car and rushed to the hospital. Makes me a little giddy even now—little girls live for that kind of devotion. But wait it gets better.
The very next weekend my dad, my grandfather, and my uncle framed and poured a concrete driveway over the blue-stone. It does a heart good to know somebody cares that much, and when it’s your dad, well . . . it swells your heart.
So it not about the man who taught me to ride a bike down a monster of a hill in Okinawa, to be accountable, to do everything to the best of my ability or not bother to invest myself . . . it’s about the man and the way he made me feel. The way he made everybody feel—loved, cherished, and important.
I have been missing him for five years now. And Mom does a pretty good job covering the bases, but there’s no one like my dad, no one.