Byard Thurber was a special, loving father and would never intentionally hurt me, but I clearly remember the first time he made me cry. I was 14 and he moved out of our home, citing irreconcilable differences with Mom. That wouldn't be the last time he made me cry.
I cried six years later when he remarried and I had to give up on my parents ever reconciling. Dad made me cry again the following year. I had just totaled his new Dodge caravan, and his calm reaction left me an emotional wreck. "All that matters is that you're OK," he said.
When I was 34, I cried when he went to intensive care with an angina attack. Tears fell again when I was 37, and Dad underwent triple bypass heart surgery. And I cried this past June when doctors told Dad he had a rare blood disorder and had 18 months to live.
But I can't say how many times Dad made me smile. He brightened my life in so many ways that I don't have a photo of us both where I'm not grinning from ear to ear. I loved him and I knew he loved me.
Since Dad wasn't around the house during my teenage years as much as he would have liked, he made it up to me in many ways. He was a great date and took me out to the nicest restaurants and theaters. Dad listened carefully to what I had to say, always gave good advice and had many interesting tales of his own to share.
I smiled the entire time when Dad took me out to the Hilton Harborfront revolving restaurant in downtown Toronto, overlooking Lake Ontario. Again, I was all smiles when I took him to dinner at the Sheraton Penthouse restaurant, overlooking Niagara Falls, for his 71st birthday.
In July, I ran into a girlfriend who had just returned from visiting her dad at the hospital.
"It was another false alarm," she said. "If there's a nuclear war, the two survivors will be my dad and a cockroach."
"Hey, make that three survivors. My dad will be there, too," I laughed.
But he won't. On Aug. 13, Dad left me for good, and I haven't stopped crying since. I am now overcome by angry jealousy when I drive by healthy 70-year-olds out mowing their lawns or golfing. Or having dinner with their daughter. That should be Dad and me.
"What happened to his 18 months the doctor said we could expect?" I sobbed as I gathered with my siblings before the memorial service.
"That's why they call it 'practicing' medicine," my brother-in-law answered softly. "They never really know."
After Dad's service, his younger sister was inconsolable. As we clung to each other, unashamedly soaking each other's shoulder with our crying, she whispered, "Tears are the price we pay for having loved someone."
Yesterday, my 14-year-old son popped the clutch to start the car while waiting for my husband, Peter, to drive him to the rink. Usually the car is left in neutral, but this time it had been left in first gear and the car lurched forward into the corner of our house. As I stared, speechless, at the car's scraped, dented body and broken headlight, Peter said to our traumatized son, "All that matters is that you're OK."
Tears came to my eyes once again. It takes a very special father to say things like that.
JAYNE THURBER-SMITH lives in Fonthill, Ont.