Dayi.

I feel like I’ve been trying to write this for years.  

THtorianddad  

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. – Richard Bach

I remember the first time Mom sat us down and said we should start calling you ‘Dad’. I am not sure exactly WHEN that was, because I can’t remember a time when you weren’t my Dad. In fact, I feel like I couldn’t be anymore your daughter if we shared blood. I hope you enjoy being my Dad as much I love having you in my life. You are the BEST DAD.

Thank you for everything you’ve given me Dad. I remember the fishing poles you gave us, and the golden scallop earrings that made me feel so special. I have the white shelf you built me still on my wall, and the doll you gave me is in the trunk at the foot of my bed. You also sent Kim and I to see Garth Brooks after we graduated from high school. I don’t remember if I ever said thank you for those things. I don’t know if I knew at the time how much the memories of that giving would mean to my life. It was the act, not the gift, that really matters in my memories. It is the love, kindness and lessons you have shown to me in my life that really matters in a big way.

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I want you to know that I am proud of my life. Most importantly, I am extremely proud of the person I am. I know those may seem like not very humble things to say, but I think it’s important that you know how much gratitude I have for the influence you have had on this life that I’m so proud of. So much of who I am is because of you, and I want to thank you for that now too. You are in the music I listen to and in the way I look at the sky. I’ve been thinking about this so much lately and I wanted to share a list of some of my favorite memories, things that always remind me of you, or life advice from you that I live by.

In no particular order…here we go:

Life in Motion – Road trips, Volkswagen & Willie Nelson
“On the Road Again” is more than our family theme song, it’s our family motto, and a lifestyle.  Friends don’t understand that it is nothing to me to get in the car, crank up the tunes and drive the 500 miles between us on my own.  Being in the car was how I spent my childhood.  Or rather, I grew up in the back of a series of VW vans seeing fun and exciting places like Muskogee, Oklahoma — learning any place can turn into a story.  It was super cool to finally see the real “Mendocino County Line”, but it was even cooler when you and I got to go see Willie Nelson together.  You’ve taught me that life is better in motion, that there is a world to be traveled, and adventures to be had EVERYWHERE.  Whenever I am sad, I just get in the car, crank up the radio, and drive.

Kites
So much kite string, so many kites.  There was always at least a dozen under the seat in the van.  It was how we spent afternoons, and how we found our way home at the beach.  You took us to watch the kites at Ocean Beach, and showed us how many hours could be spent dancing a piece of plastic in the sky.  I can’t wait to have kids and teach them to fly kites.

The Traveling Circus Playlist
If there was a movie about this family, we clearly have already chosen our own soundtrack.  Beyond Willie, there is a whole collection of tunes that seem to bring back flashes of moments.  You gave me a musical foundation to build a lifetime on.

Who would have thought when you glued the radio dial on the country station as a kid that it would make a fan forever?  Perhaps Dad’s do know what’s best after all?  Well, I still can’t find love for ELO, but classic rock is a staple in my life. Thankfully you only assigned that tape to the ride to school one day a week, and my musical education expanded from there. I credit you with Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix finding their home in my collection even today.

“The Lime and the Coconut” song was sung so often by you and Mom, that when my best friend Kim wrote my first online dating profile, she made the ability to sing it on cue a requirement for my future partner.

When I was old enough to buy my own music, I had to seek out “You had to be there” from Jimmy Buffett, because no memory of the white van days is complete without that. I remember when we drove away from Livingston’s Chicken Shack in OB, headed to Missouri, with that in our tape deck, over and over, for 2000 miles.  Thank goodness it was a double album!

Holidays in our house were always music and movies, and it wasn’t an Easter or a Thanksgiving without Paul Simon’s Graceland making a play or two through. Every time I hear Kodachrome, I think of you. Last year when I was standing at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, I imagined you next to me rocking out and singing along.

Steve Miller Band and the Doobie Brothers
Going to this concert with you is one of the greatest memories of my life.  I don’t know how to say except that.  These two bands will forever churn up happiness inside me.  I feel like that was the night every thing changed.  That was the night that I really let you in as my Dayi.  I have felt close to you ever since.

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Blues Brothers & Major Payne
I think I have seen the Blues Brothers no less than 100 times, without exaggeration.  It never gets old.  I still find myself “Shaking a Tail Feather” around my living room a few times a year, just for old times sake, but it’s not the same as you quoting along to the movie and hearing your laugh.  I sometimes forget that not everyone has seen Major Payne, because it wasn’t exactly a hit movie.  “Want me to give you a little something to take your mind off that pain?”  When I say lines from it, people just look quizzically at me, and I always wish you were around because I know you’d get it.

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Classic Cars & Corvettes
I remember ordering that first car from the Franklin Mint in college and making six different $38 payments like a rock star. It was the first time I “financed” anything an I remember when I called you to tell you that you actually owned it. It was all downhill from there, and now you have an entire bookshelf bursting . You have made a daughter obsessed with the fine curves of the ’72, but who wouldn’t pass up a Chevy Super Sport if someone gave her that instead. I will own a classic car someday.  (I imagine myself as one of those old people that travels around to car shows showing off my treasure.)  Bonding over cars and Corvettes has been so wonderful. It’s given me so many adventures to car shows, and made me an expert at scoring Hot Wheels cars on EBay.

The Ocean & The Sky
“There is no life east of I-5”. I can’t even recall the number of times I heard this growing up. It’s not like we lived on the Grapevine either. We lived where the coast to the freeway was only 5 miles. You taught me to appreciate the free beauty given to me every day.  Sunset Cliffs was our movie theater.  As an adult, I have been known to be a bit obsessive about sunsets, and frequently say I’m having a love affair with the California coast. I have also put on my list of requirements for my future husband that he not try and get me to move out of California unless it’s going to fall into the ocean.  Thank you for making us a coastal family.

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Boats, Sailing and the America’s Cup
I don’t have a lot of friends talking about the America’s Cup this summer, but I’m in awe that it’s in San Francisco and I follow the news like the MLB standings.  I’ll never forget your red socks at South Bay boat yard, or seeing that beautiful silver cup up close.  I may still not like to be on boats, but I’m happy that I grew up around them.  Marinas, harbors, sail boats…they always make me feel close to you.

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BBQ & Cooking
If girls look for guys like their Dad, I have clearly failed in my search for the master BBQ’er. Having a vegan boyfriend clearly wasn’t the pathway to having someone in my life that comes home from work every day and starts the coals to start me a steak for dinner.  But, I don’t know if anyone could ever match your talent for smoking a turkey on the BBQ anyway.  I’ll never forget calling you the first time I ever planned to make a turkey in the oven.  In fact, I’m pretty sure we called you about a dozen times that day.  You’re better than the Butterball hotline!  BBQing will always make me think of you, but you have been an excellent resource for many of my kitchen adventures over the years.  I still wish you had written your Macaroni & Cheese cookbook!

Ideas and Learning
You read the newspaper. You demanded silence when Dan Rather was on the television. You insisted on academic excellence. You exposed us to computers. I hated it all, but it laid the foundation for the hunger for knowledge that fills my every day. I am an information and news junkie, a data freak and a sociological people watcher.  Learning and ideas has become one of the main ways I connect with people.  It has given the ability to make a set of diversely intelligent friends that I often refer to as “The Brain Trust”.  It has helped me succeed in my job, and I’m often known for having ideas and absorbing knowledge like a sponge.  Every time someone compliments this in me, I silently thank you.

Pink Roses
When Mom and I came out of the grocery store on the day you dropped me off at college, there were pink roses in my seat.  You gave me flowers other times, but it is that moment that has made the memory I return to every time I see pale blooms anywhere.  Roses in general will always remind me of Balboa Park, and your diligent voluntary care of their garden.

“I’d rather you owe me than pay me.”
As I have gotten to be an adult, I have realized the value of this statement I heard you say over and over as a kid. I have witnessed how your life of kindness has been returned to you in random acts. I have tried to live a life of doing good without thought of immediate return, of giving to the world and knowing that if you are patient, the world will give back to you.  I have dozens of memories of the people who have lined up to do things for you big and small, all with stories of a once kindness you gave without expectation.  You’re just a nice guy Dad.  I watched you help people my whole life.  I watched you be nice to people.  I don’t have any memories of you being mean. This is the way I have tried to life my life too.  I appreciate you modeling this in how you interact with the world.  Even the last time I was home, listening to you talk on the phone to the lady at the hospital made me realize yet again why everyone loves you.

Life is hard, but it is worth living.
Your ongoing will to live just blows me away.  I’m just gonna sum it up like that.  I have friends that are pretty sure you’re going to outlive all of us.  The last few years, as you have continued to laugh and make jokes through all their poking, prodding and experimenting, you have also inspired me.  I’m a bit of wuss about a lot of things, but then I think about all that you go through and how much you seem to continue to laugh and not give up, it pushes me forward.  I road my 100 mile bike ride with a picture of this family.  I think about all the challenges that in the moment seemed dire and urgent, but were overcome to be in this place and I want to live bigger and harder.  It has given me patience for the hard times, knowing it’s a bad time, not a bad life.  My life has been so good.  All of the challenges are now stories about our life.  You are the best storyteller I know and I am so grateful that I have gotten to be a part of this story and to be part of your life.

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Thank you Dayi.  Thank you for choosing me as your daughter.  Thank you for giving me a lifetime of memories, gifts and lessons to build on.  I think you are not only an amazing Dad, but an amazing man.  Thank you for helping me on this zany path of life.  I feel that no matter what the rest of my life brings, with this foundation, there is nothing that will stop me from finding a reason to laugh.

I love you.

-tor