I feel lucky I got to spend so much time with my dad in the year before he died. I was living at home at the time, so almost every night we'd have dinner together, the three of us - my mom, me and my dad. My sister would join us when she visited, too. On sunny days he'd "fire up" the Weber barbecue on the deck, and we'd make burgers or chicken or a skewer of some time. Sometimes I'd catch a glimpse of him outside while he chatting on the phone with one of his buddies, and he would look so content, laughing at some joke, pacing like one does on the phone, all while keeping a careful eye on whatever we were grilling.
It's been a little over four years now. Four years since his last paddle out into the surf.
My dad had so many wonderful idiosyncrasies, ways of saying and doing things that were unique and endearing. Anyone who knew him saw this. I would push him away sometimes because he would annoy me - he would get on my nerves when I was feeling impatient, but I didn't realize how good I had it. I wish I had been easier on him. He was always trying to connect with me, even if he didn't always know what to say. He was flawed, but he was honest, with a strong moral compass. He was kind, and interesting, and funny.
I miss him. I miss the barbecues and the chats about books and movies and shows we both enjoyed. I miss him telling me to "pace myself." I miss feeling certain of his love. I miss sneaking chocolate malt balls from the bulk bins with him. I know I'm biased, but he was one of a kind.
Now, when I think of him, I try to remember all those little idiosyncrasies that made him who he was, from my perspective. The other day I was trying to think about all the things he taught me, about everything from cars to socks to showing gratitude. I even started a list. Some of them are strange and I don't always adhere to them, but I certainly think about them all the time. He liked to joke about oddball characters but he was somewhat of an oddball himself.
He liked routines, especially in the morning. My father was a morning person, like me, and woke up hungry, like I do. He truly believed that the best way to start the day is with a freshly-squeezed glass of orange juice. That, and toast with lots of butter, coffee and cream. It was just the way things were done.
I've been incorporating this tradition somewhat into my routine since I moved to Portland five months ago. I inherited a juicer so it seemed like a good incentive and citrus season is now in full swing as well. For years my parents made each other orange juice everyday from Valencia oranges and drank it first thing. I'd wake up to our large electric juicer making that familiar whirring sound. Without fail, he would offer me some, or just make it for me regardless with the hope I would accept. It pleased him when I said yes, I could tell. I don't know what it is exactly, but lately I've been craving that jolt of sweet tartness in morning. I drink a glass and I feel like I'm in a Tropicana commercial or something, all happy and nourished. Nothing else will do. Sometimes I mix grapefruit and orange and it tastes like the essence of a sunny winter morning, bright and beautiful and fleeting.
A few sips, and it's gone.