He was 50 years old when I was born, and a â€˜Mr Momâ€™ long before anyone had a name for it. I didnâ€™t know why he was home instead of Mom, but I was the only one of my friends who had their dad around. I considered myself very lucky.
Dad always had my lunch ready for me when I came home â€” usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was shaped for the season. My favourite was at Christmas. The sandwiches would be sprinkled with green sugar and cut in the shape of a tree.
As I got a little older and tried to gain my independence, I wanted to move away from those â€˜childishâ€™ signs of his love. But he wasnâ€™t going to give up. In high school and no longer able to go home for lunch, I began taking my own.
Dad would get up a little early and make it for me. I never knew what to expect. The outside of the sack might be covered with his rendering of a mountain scene (it became his trademark) or a heart inscribed with â€˜Dad-n-Angie KKâ€™ in its centre. Inside there would be a napkin with that same heart or an â€œI love you.â€
Many times he would write a joke or a riddle, such as â€˜Why donâ€™t they ever call it a momsicle instead of a popsicle?â€™ He always had some silly saying to make me smile and let me know he loved me.
I used to hide my lunch so no one would see the bag or read the napkin, but that didnâ€™t last. One of my friends saw the napkin, grabbed it, and passed it around. My face burned with embarrassment. To my astonishment, the next day all my friends were waiting to see the napkin. From the way they acted, I think they all wished they had someone who showed them that kind of love.
I was so proud to have him as my father. Throughout the rest of my high school years, I received those napkins.
When I left home for college, I thought the messages would stop. But my friends and I were glad that his gestures continued.
I missed seeing my dad every day and so I called him a lot. My phone bills got to be pretty high. I just wanted to hear his voice. We started a ritual during that first year that stayed with us. After I said goodbye he always said, â€œAngie?â€
â€œYes, Dad?â€ Iâ€™d reply.
â€œI love you.â€
â€œI love you, too, Dad.â€
I began getting letters
almost every Friday. The front-desk staff always knew who the letter were from â€” the return address said â€œThe Hunk.â€
The mail was delivered every day right before lunch, so Iâ€™d have his letters with me when I went to the cafeteria. I realised it was useless to hide them because my roommate was a high school friend who knew about his napkins. Soon it became a Friday afternoon ritual. I would read the letters, and the drawing and envelope would be passed around.
It was during this time that Dad became stricken with cancer. When the letters didnâ€™t come on Friday, I knew he had been sick and wasnâ€™t able to write. If he missed his Friday delivery, the letters would usually come a day or two later. But they always came. My friends used to call him â€˜Coolest Dad in the Universeâ€™. And one day they sent him a card bestowing that title, signed by all of them.
I believe he taught all of us about a fatherâ€™s love. I wouldnâ€™t be surprised if
my friends started sending napkins to their children. He left an impression that would stay with them and inspire them to give their own children their expression of their love.
Then the time came when I came home to be with him because he was growing sicker, and I knew that our time together was limited.
Those were the hardest days to go through. To watch this man, who always acted so young, age past his years. In the end he didnâ€™t recognise who I was and would call me the name of a relative he hadnâ€™t seen in many years. Even though I knew it was due to his illness, it still hurt that he couldnâ€™t remember my name.
I was alone with him in his hospital room a couple of days before he died. We held hands and watched TV. As I was getting ready to leave, he said, â€œAngie?â€
â€œI love you.â€
â€œI love you, too, Dad.â€ â€” Angie Ward-Kucer