Grief: Part 1… my story

Little Melissa and Dad

Today would have been my dad’s 66th birthday. This year will be 10 years without him. Some days it seems like 10 days, others it seems like 10 decades. Grief is such a complicated thing, indescribable, really.

I wanted to honor my dad today by telling you some things about him. Especially for those of you that never met him… I want you to know who he was. Why I am who I am! And so many others that were honored to know him in his short 56 years on this Earth. He was really, really… the best.

My mom and dad were high school sweethearts. Graduated from Mesquite High School in May of 1972 and got married 2 months later on July 7, 1972.

They had my sister in 1975… this is one of my favorite pictures of my dad and sister…

Angie and Dad

And then 3 years later, in 1978… they had me! This is one of my favorite pictures of us. I don’t think I ever stopped looking up to him that way. With every ounce of trust. My whole hand only able to wrap around one of his massive fingers.

I had such a great childhood. Our little family of four. I think my sister would agree, I sort of hoarded my parents attention. Sorry, Angie!

I was just a little needy. I know now… after years of therapy… I was a really anxious child. I liked to be near my parents… at ALL times. I slept in their bed… in their bed… until 7th grade. Not 7 years old… 7th grade. No wonder I was the last child.

Things I remember about my dad in early childhood… patience.

He didn’t get angry with me when I came into their room every night. He didn’t get annoyed when I wiggled my way in between he and my mom on the couch. He didn’t refuse to come get me when I attempted… for the hundredth time… to spend the night with a friend and then woke them at midnight to come get me because I had changed my mind.

I can still remember the actual feeling of relief when I would see my parents car pull up to retrieve me from a sleep over… mid sleep over.

The thing with me… I’ve always been a little all or nothing. So, I think I went from sleeping in their bed to sneaking out my bedroom window in like a matter of months. I was a wild teenager.

the day I got my braces off 🙂

Still… in those years, patience… love… zero judgement. Also… zero tolerance. I knew my limits. I knew his limits. And I stretched them… sometimes until they ripped and popped me in the face. But their were limits.

Things I remember about my dad in those teenage years… acceptance.

He accepted everyone. He allowed anyone in our house and he was always nice, friendly, inviting. Now, there were times, that I was hanging with some pretty shady characters… but our door was always open. He, and my mom, welcomed everyone. My dad was a big guy. His size was intimidating. He knew the initial respect would come from that… but some of those friends, in that time, had never been welcomed into anyone’s home. Never been invited to the table to eat. Never been asked how their day was. Never been offered a cold Dr Pepper. He was that person. He accepted anyone.

My dad was a car guy. A super cool car guy. Like, the one everyone wants to know. He was creative, talented, artistic. He painted hot rods and rat rods and show cars. He was well known in that community. Most people knew, they could drive past our house and see the garage light on. And again, anyone was welcome. Guys would come and go from our garage all the time. They’d sit and watch him, talk to him, learn from him. He was a teacher, a mentor, a leader.

He spent many years leading the youth at my parents church, from there he went to became the assistant pastor at our church…

In a garage or on a pulpit… you got the same guy. The same exact guy. Genuine, kind, caring, trustworthy, sincere.

Remember those wild teenage years I talked about? Enter… Micah.

Sweet, little, tiny, baby Micah. I got pregnant when I was 19, just a few months after I graduated high school. Again, I was 19. I was a receptionist at a hair salon. I had no real plan for my life. OH… AND… the father of my baby… was the guy my parents had forbid me to see for the past 3 years. The guy I had snuck out my window for, skipped school for, stolen for, and then some. Mmmhmm, that guy. The one that was 6 years older than me and probably not the best influence.

Things I remember about my dad in those years… unconditional love.

True, raw, undeserving, unfathomable, unconditional love.

His role was extended. Not only was he still my father. Guiding me and leading me… in a time when I needed it the most… but then, also, stepping in as the father figure that Micah needed.

I think “Papa” was his favorite role. If Angie thought I was anyone’s favorite, we all got left in the dust when Micah came along.

They were best buddies. Car buddies, baseball buddies, football buddies, breakfast buddies. My dad was the first to the field on practice days, the score keeper at baseball games, the short order cook on weekends. We lived with my parents until Micah was 6. And these, are some of my most treasured memories.

Things I remember about my dad in these years… joy.

Joy. A father, whose young daughter lived at home with her young child… and joyful is the word that describes him the most.

I strayed from God, from religion, from church for a few years in my life. I always knew the truth, I always had that relationship in the back of my heart and my mind. But let me tell you, having the earthly father that I did has helped me to have faith in a heavenly father that I can’t see.

My dad’s example. His patience, acceptance, unconditional love and joy came from inside him. He didn’t seem to struggle to live that way… like I do at times. It was who he was. And it was who he was because he had given all of his worry and control and fear to a higher power. He made it seem easy… maybe it wasn’t… I don’t know… but even if it was… and everyday he had to get up and try real hard… it worked. It gave me an example to follow behind, it gave me faith to believe in something more than myself, and it gave me the peace in knowing that I will see him again.

I miss my dad every single day. I wish he could see what an amazing adult Micah has become. How sweet and funny and kind my niece and nephew are. And that I live on a farm! Like, a real farm… and I married a cowboy… like, a real cowboy. He would love our lives.

But they are only our lives for these reasons:

  • patience
  • acceptance
  • unconditional love
  • joy

Practicing those things daily reminds me of how blessed I was to have him for 31 years.

I don’t know how the “woowoo” stuff works. I have some friends that could probably give some theories on it. But this is what I know… my dad is here with me. He is not far. He shows up when I need him. He sends me little signs and winks and confirmation that I am doing the right thing. Going the right way. And I am thankful for it.

I keep an ongoing log in my phone called “Nick Notes” and it is all of the little messages my dad has sent me… the little signs and winks.

These past few weeks, I have really wanted to see a cardinal. There are so many stories about why the cardinal is significant to my dad. Last week, on my hardest day yet in this pandemic, a red cardinal came and sat outside of my window. Just perched right there on top of the tree. Later that day, I had gone out on a drive just in hopes of shaking my funk… and another flew in front of my car.

This past Saturday, I was drying my hair and thinking about this post. Which pictures I wanted to use, what I would say… I look down… and my phone is calling my dad. I still have his number in my favorites with his picture. So there it is… “calling Nick Mackaly” and his picture. Maybe the blowdryer caused the phone to come on… and scroll through my contacts… and land on my dad… and press call. Maybe. But I doubt it 😉

There are more stories of these winks and these moments…. some just here on my blog…. Menus, Meals & Memories… and a little wink, Sunday Offering: Christmas Winks, Sunday Offering: When your assignment changes, Sunday Offering: Garlic Butter, Birthdays and Winks

And then one… posted nationally early last year. Click HERE

I have a little more to say about grief itself and how it relates to this pandemic… but I am going to stop here for today. I want to share my dad with you and then come back later this week and talk about grief in general.

Thank you for reading this. If you have some kind words or good memories about my dad… feel free to leave them in the comments 🙂


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