I am at a loss as to how to truly tell you all about my dad and the influence he had on my life. I am unprepared because, even though I always knew I would lose him early, I still kept hope that he would someday get to be a Grandpa to my kids.
Before everything changed, I was daddy’s little girl. We would go to the rose gardens (in fact, this spring I planted my Mister Lincoln rose garden in honor of him, picking out the plants as I talked with him over the phone from Portland Nursery). We would spend countless hours at Powell’s, looking for cheap used books – me Walter Farley, he Dick Francis. We always went and got maple bars at the bakery next to Wizers in Lake Oswego on the way to his house for the weekends. He rooted for me at my soccer games. Learning how to play Atari in the dark at the house in Tigard. Dressing up as Wonder Woman in that awful plastic uniform at his apartment in Salem. John and Marsha. Hiking all over Oregon, from all over the Oregon Coast to our trip to Harney & Malheur Lakes in SE Oregon. Our last hike in Colorado before I moved to Seattle. How he always sang You Are My Sunshine as we’d get closer to him dropping me off. Earliest memory – him carrying me to bed, singing “Good Night Ladies” from the Lawrence Welk show. His trailer at Crooked River Ranch and kicking around the soccer ball with me out there. Our gazillion trips to the beach – still to this day my favorite place to escape. Collecting agates on the beach in the early mornings. Playing in the pool at the Sea Gypsy. I remember him crying as we prepared to say goodbye when I left Billings, then Denver, to go back home. His loud booming laugh that would make my ears turn red after our phone conversations. Learning how to make stained glass with him. Remembering how when I was little, he used to always send me cards, postcards, letters, etc., telling me “always remember how much your daddy loves you”. I don’t have a picture of me with both my mother and father in it. I don’t remember that life. My dad left me the day after Christmas when I was 4 years old. When I was 10 years old, he left me a again, moving to Montana and Colorado. I only saw him once a year after that, as he started his own family, and they became his priority over me. As the years went on he evolved into someone I barely recognized, literally and figuratively. I learned a lot, good and bad, from him. The first version of Tom Pick is the one I am going to remember. That is who I’m going to tell my children about. But I’ve learned from both. And I know that I’m going to be OK, because now I am free. The afternoon before he died, I had a violent emotional breakdown as I stood next to him, and told him how I have been trying so hard to forgive him for everything, and to forgive myself for not being the daughter he wanted. I told him about the man I’m falling in love with, a man this time who reminds me of the good side of Tom rather than the bad side that I’d experienced in my first marriage. I told him that it’s not fair that he did this to himself, that my grandkids will never get to know him. I told him how much I loved him and how much I’ve missed being daddy’s little girl. I told him he’d better find some way to acknowledge what I’ve said, to let me know that we are square, that he loves me no matter what. His eyelids continued to flutter and nothing. Then he opened his eyes, looked at me, a tear came out of his right eye, he moved his lips, and reached for my hand. I kissed him goodbye, stroked his hair, and told him how much I loved him, and thanked him for being my daddy. That afternoon they raised his morphine and his eyes did not open, and that evening, his breathing changed drastically and Linda and I held his hands and he opened his eyes one last time and I told him that love is all that matters. My dad’s breathing quieted, and stopped. I held his hand and stroked his arm for a few seconds as the nurse let us know he was gone, and a few moments later, I looked down and saw that his spirit had left his body and my dad was gone. It’s like a slow motion tape, repeating in my mind. The picture on the right is the last one taken of my dad and I, at the Italian Bakery off Killingsworth. Some days I can’t even look at it. Every day has been undefinable. He brought me into this world, and I held his hand as he left this world. This is a blessing. And I know I’m his number one girl.