Today my mother and I were having lunch at a little Mexican restaurant close to my house. My dad LOVED Mexican food. He probably could have eaten Mexican food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every day of his life if my mom would have let him. He was a regular at multiple run down, hole in the wall, non-chain Mexican restaurants where he would order something “deluxe” and would literally drink the salsa from the bowl. Anyway… my mom and I were sitting there, Bennett was in a highchair while I was feeding him some refried beans (he loves them almost as much as his grandpa did) when out of the speakers came “Girl From Impanema“. Now I know this is not odd… “Girl From Impanema” is probably played in every Mexican restaurant at least once or twice a day. What struck me was that it was the exact same version that my dad and I danced to for our Father Daughter dance at my wedding.
Two Sundays ago, I lost my dad. It was unexpected. It was fast. It was, and still is, very sad. Going to his funeral was a numbing experience. I kept thinking it was all a bad dream, and that at some point I would wake up and he would call me like he always did just to tell me he loves me and how proud of me he is. At the viewing there was standing room only. Everyone wanted to speak to tell their story of how James Olson (my dad) had touched their lives and who he was as a man. I couldn’t speak. I had no words at that moment. How was I to formulate all of the wonderful memories, emotions, encouraging words of affection that my dad flooded me with into a small few minutes of speaking time in front of tons of people? I have never been a good public speaker. I get very nervous… the complete opposite of my dad who is a boss speaker. He thrived with those types of things. Even lecturing my brother and I when we were younger was always an opportunity for him to show off those speaking skills.
My dad was not always my “dad”. James came into my life when I was very young (4 years old or so). Him and my mom got married a few years later and he was always that father figure in my life. I think I was 14 or 15 years old when he made the decision to adopt me as his own and change my last name to Olson. This was a really big deal to me. Long before he adopted me, he treated me like his daughter. He took care of me, defended me, provided me with the opportunities to participate in any extracurricular activities my heart desired, paid for my private education, let me work for him in high school so I could learn about lives very different from mine, gave the best advice, and pumped me up with so much confidence it was almost to a fault. I always wanted to live up to his expectations of me. I always wanted to make him proud.
My dad always, ALWAYS made me feel like I was the most beautiful girl in the world. He would always tell me how smart I was, he would laugh and act interested in my stupid stories, he would always let me know how he felt about who I was dating at the moment… most of the time he really didn’t approve ha ha ha… That is until my husband came into my life. He LOVED Andy. Like a son, he loved him so much. He was so proud of his son in law, I think he started bragging more about my husband than me!
You know, one of the best things about my dad was that he was always happy for other people and their success. He wanted every single person around him to succeed in life and to be happy. And he was genuine about that! Not only did he want that for everyone, he was there to help you achieve it! He was the advocate in your corner, the pit bull making sure things went your way, he fought for those he loved.
My dad had many health issues, but he never let that get in his way. In 2001, he came down with walking pneumonia. Fluid was filling his lungs so he had to have major surgery. I remember visiting him in the hospital the day before the surgery and he was talking to me as if it was our last conversation ever. I don’t think I took it seriously… I was so immature. I remember the next day my mom called me at school to let me know that he was out of surgery. When I went up to see him after school that day, I was not prepared for what I was going to see… my dad was on a ventilator in ICU (in a coma) where he remained for 2 more weeks. At one point during the 2 weeks, my mom was staying with him in the hospital when she was awoken to multiple doctors storming into the room where they had to revive him. He had flatlined. Somehow, he pulled it through and miraculously, he woke up just a week before my senior Homecoming dance. I remember going to visit him in the hospital in my formal gown… it was a good day for me knowing he was going to be ok. In 2010, just a few weeks after Husband & I got engaged, my dad lost his leg to diabetes. He was determined to walk me down the aisle and dance with me for our Father Daughter dance. It was a tough road to recovery from such a traumatic surgery, but sure enough, he did it! It was one of the best days of our lives!
When I think about the conversation he had with me before that first surgery in 2001, it reminds me of how lucky I am to have had him in my life 14 years longer than I should have. That was a true blessing from God and I’m so thankful for it. As much as I wish he was still here, I know that he is in Heaven watching over me and my family. His health is no longer an issue for him. He is playing multiple rounds of golf with my grandpa, eating all the Mexican food his heart desires, and dancing to nonstop disco. He wouldn’t come back if he had the option.
I appreciate everyone who has been praying for my family and keeping us in your thoughts. This has been a heartbreaking loss and the holidays will not be the same without him.