It is exactly 18 years since my dad died. Here are the things I wish I could have done differently:
1. Tried tomatoes with salt and pepper instead of sugar when he told me they tasted good that way.
2. Believed him when he said tomatoes taste different depending on how you slice them. Of course he was absolutely right - the ratios of skin to pulp change and necessarily affect flavor.
3. Gone down to his workshop to listen to the radio with him when he asked. Why didn't I spend time with him when I could have? Why?
4. Not rolled my eyes at the idea of my mom and his buying an RV to travel around the country.
5. Not been ashamed my sophomore year of college after he had retired from the Air Force at the age of 49 and gone back to school to get his teacher certification and had gotten a job at Wal-Mart for extra cash. My college friends' dads were VPs at F100 companies and my dad was working at Wal-Mart. I am ashamed of being ashamed. Honest work is honest work.
6. Gotten up early to hit the Rochester Minnesota thrift shops with him. I lived with my mom and dad for a few months after I got back from the Peace Corps. This was when they were in Minnesota. My dad would get up early - like 5 a.m. - to swim laps at the gym, then come home and want to hang out with me. I would get cranky and tell him I wanted to sleep. I wish I could go back to my 30 year old self and warn myself that my dad would be dead within two years and to take all the time I possibly could with him.
7. Sat next to him to watch Hill Street Blues, which he really liked.
8. I think he liked Law and Order, too, although I might be remembering wrong - was that on 18 years ago?
9. Gone bike riding with him.
10. Told him how much I loved him and how lucky I was to have such a great dad. I hope he knew that's how I felt. I think I told him that. I hope I did. I knew even then how lucky I was and I for sure know now, now that I have seen what a bad father looks like.