“G’nite dad.  I love ya.”  For the last few months I say this out loud with such gratitude every night when I hit the sack.  You have no idea what it means to me that I can go to bed with peace.  You see… I could have been wracked with guilt and remorse for being the Ice Queen, withholding and distant from my dad.

My pop passed on July 13, 2008, after a three month journey of being in a hospital, a physical rehab, back to the hospital, home for a week, back to the hospital and finally into a nursing home.  It was hard for him and our entire family – mom, two brothers and me.  Oddly for me, it was a liberating time – a huge gift.  I realized this was gonna be it.  I had to let my resentments go, love him, support him, be there for him.  Turns out it is the best gift I ever gave — to the both of us.

We had a ‘challenging’ relationship for most my life.  Fortunately or unfortunately, he didn’t realize it, didn’t want to see it or maybe he just couldn’t acknowledge it.

I could go on and on with all my righteous reasons about why he was a ‘bad dad.’ (Writing that just made me think of Dr. Seuss…and another reason why I do love my dad; he loved Dr. Seuss and reading his books, both to us as kids and to his grandkids).  The reason I’m writing this, though,  is to share one of the continuous gifts I receive from my ‘bad dad’ who I now know, was just doing the best he could with what he had.  (My dad loved me like crazy, I’m fortunate to know that now.) His intentions were good.  He just didn’t behave the way I wanted him to.

One of my dad’s most annoying traits was that he was, at times, irreverent and silly.  He would make up words or say words improperly, just for fun…and it would drive me crazy.  I recently learned that some of these ‘improper’ words were imitations of things we said as kids. He chose to remember them and make them part of his special language.

My dad especially annoyed me with a teasing tweaking question.  He would say, ‘Hey Lis, are ya havin’n fun?’ Translation: ‘Hey Lisa, are you having any fun?’  One of my biggest dad resentments was that I thought he was very irresponsible and inconsiderate.  I wore this resentment like a warm winter coat and became a martyr in response.

I was comfortably uncomfortable in my resentment – that’s why it was a warm winter coat and definitely not itchy. In that coat I became overly responsible, rigid, very serious. A non-risk taking and no time for fun kinda gal, especially around him.  What the hell was ‘fun’ anyway?

So what about the glorious gift part?

I have a friend, Denise, who has gone skydiving, once a year for the past several years.  In 2007, I watched, from the safety of the ground, as she and several of her virginal skydiving friends landed from a bright blue sky with colorful open chutes. They were all elated, enthusiastic and full of joy.

At that time I thought … hmmm, maybe I’ll try that next year.  I told Denise that: just maybe, I said, maybe next year.  Then one Monday, this past July, I ran into Denise and she told me: “I’m going skydiving this Saturday.”  I thought to myself – Holy Shit!  It’s been a full year already?!?!  Can’t be!  Can it?  I guess so.

I told her that I would think about it and asked when I had to let her know. She said I could let her know Friday night.  She would make the reservations and include me.  I could always cancel.  During that week…I vowed not to tell a soul that I was even thinking about doing it.  The last thing I wanted to hear was:

  • “Wow, that’s great.”
  • “My uncle/friend/whoever went and they loved it.’
  • “My uncle/friend/ whoever went and they broke something, hurt something, landed in a tree, the ocean, an alfalfa field…and/or died.”
  • “How was it? What was it like?” the following Monday. Especially if I chickened out and decided not to do it.

I tried to imagine that I actually had gone skydiving, and started to think about how I would tell everyone, literally.   ’I skydove.’  Though it sounded damn funny I do believe that it is grammatically correct.  ‘I skydived.’  ‘I went skydiving.’  I really enjoyed how funny ‘I skydove’ sounded.

I really wanted to be able to say I had done this.  It would be completely unexpected.  I decided to do it.  And so…the day before my dad died, I took the day off from the family’s daily nursing home visit with pop and I jumped out of a plane…at 13,500 feet.  Proud of myself?  Impressed with myself?  Words can’t explain.  I never thought I could do something like that.

When my mom, family & friends look at the video of me getting ready to jump out of the plane and see my calm, smiling face…they ask me, “How on earth could you look so calm and relaxed?!’ My answer  – “I really don’t know…I just hadda jump, whatever the result, I just hadda do it.”

The next day, the nursing home called my mom and said dad wasn’t doing well.  They had never called to say something like that before.  I met my mom and brother at the nursing home.  I went in, saw my dad, and knew…this was it.  He was lying down, his eyes were wide open, there was no blinking.  He was breathing, but was unable to talk, nod his head, squeeze my hand or move.   I was so sad.

But I grabbed his hand, sat next to him, and told him, “Hey dad. You’ll never guess what I did yesterday…I jumped out of a f***in’ plane! I really did.  I went skydiving.”  (He would not have minded the language.)  There was no hand squeeze back or visible acknowledgment. But I asked the nurse if she thought he could hear, and she told me: that’s usually the last sense to go.

Now, it is my hope and belief that my dad did hear me — and that he left us  thinking: Hell yes!  Lis is well on her way to havin’n fun in her life…and it’s about F-in’ time.  Hey Lis, I love ya kiddo!

His glorious gift to me is his reminder: “’Hey Lis, are ya havin’n fun?”’  My reply now is “Thanks for the reminder pop.  I’m workin’ on it.  I gotta lotta catchin’ up to do!!” And though I used to cringe when he would say “I love ya kiddo”  on my way out the door, now I remember it fondly, and say “G’nite dad, I love ya.”

Lisa K is a kite flying, photographing, skydiving, hot air ballooning, afraid of swimming in water taller than herself, works for/with/at places where good is done, ex. Central Park, NYC parks, Elmo, Grover, Big Bird and currently in a corporate (who woulda thunk!) foundation/corporate responsibility department, friend, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, soulmate to my future soulmate man, work of art in progress.


Leave a Reply to Elizabeth Vander Kamp

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • ann d April 15, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    a powerful and beautiful story! transformational! i admire you very much and would like to be as brave and determined. i am eager to see/hear any future thoughts.and to experience such great liberation from fear, guilt, whatever. that is some fabulous way to make amends to yourself and everyone else you might have had in mind. thanks for giving me a new way of looking at life and doing something with it. would that i could do the diving bit but i will definitely run it by my defenses. many thanks again and much love.

  • Laurie Messite April 14, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Reading it made me cry and laugh at the same time.

    It’s beautiful. And so are you.

    Love You, Laur

  • Tom Wahman April 13, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Hey Lisa,

    You took me literally when I said “You were the bomb!” Right out of an airplane with smiles before, during and after. Time to return to the fold and surprise us with a repeat or its equivilent. What a gal!!

    Tom W.

  • Gerry April 13, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Thank you for sharing your story with me. I miss not seeing you. Glad to hear from you. Take care of yourself. I hope to see you soon.


  • Dana K. April 12, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    Lisa – I loved this. So great. What a story and what a metaphor – jumping out of a plane at 13,500 feet the day before your dad took final flight himself. Great, great story. Dana

  • Mark Flynn April 12, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    Hi Lisa ,, It”s me, Mark , Denise’s boyfriend, It was a gift to see you descend from the skies above me on that beautiful day. You were just like Buzz Lightyear, “Thats falling with style”

  • molly Heron April 10, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Love ya Lisa!
    This is a beautiful, inspiring story.

    You go girl. YOU ARE!

  • Stacey April 7, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Lisa K. You are my hero! Thanks for that great story.

  • Elizabeth Vander Kamp April 5, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Okay, comment number 2 from Elizabeth! Tressa and I just watched your video together – my goodness! How fabulous! Tressa loved it, me too!

  • Elizabeth Vander Kamp April 5, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Lisa K…

    You, out there, Lisa K., you rock! I love the alfalfa field and your dad’s irreverent language and how he would definitely NOT have minded your language when you told him about skydiving!

    Thank you for sharing!

    Rock on!

    Elizabeth V.

  • Dr. Pat Allen April 2, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    This is an astonishing essay of forgiveness and self discovery. Lisa, you get to live the rest of your life with the gift of reconciliation with your father and the gift he gave you the day before he died. It was his belief in that wonderful part of you, the place where joy and childhood and fun and risk taking live, that allowed you to begin your transformation.

    And, Lisa, now that we know that you are having fun, we at http://www.womensvoicesforchange.org want to hear about your adventures and your journey.


    Dr. Pat