Today is my father’s birthday. Theodore “Ted” (Bunky) Kasica would be 85 if he were alive. I was 15 when I lost my dad to cardiac arrest. Yes, it was a shock, and it still is even as 39 years have passed since that dreadful day.
One of the greatest gifts my father gave me was the blueprint for what makes a good father. I think of him often when I’m writing because many of my stories involve fathers. His lessons infuse my character development in many ways.
In Collection, the first in my Daisy Hunter stories, Tom Hunter, father of five and one on the way, is much like my father: a house painter, a dreamer, a lover of books, a gentle man who does not like to make waves.
In my YA sports novel Swim Season, Gordon Keane has divorced his wife and left his daughter Aerin. Remarried and the stepfather of two girls, he juggles two families, failing to please everyone. Still, he tries.
In Blue Hydrangeas, Jack Harmon, ever the protector and provider, deals with his wife’s Alzheimer’s on his own, stubbornly refusing to accept his son’s help because he’s so “busy” and has his own family.
All of these men are reflections of my dad.
My father became a cabinet maker after failing at his own paint and wallpaper business because he was too easy-going, and often let people delay payment or worked for next to nothing. With four children this was a disaster, and he was forced to take a job working for someone else. He hated it. But with a growing family and a mortgage he had no choice. He made up for his disappointment by going fishing as often as possible, following the Boston Bruins and Red Sox, reading his books, and listening to his classical music.
Dad was a paratrooper in the United States Army, stationed in Germany in the 1950’s. He was a boxer, a skier, a big outdoorsman. My husband, who never had the opportunity to meet him, once said while I was bemoaning his missing out on so much life: “Your father lived more in his short life than some who live double his years.” He was so right.
Dad was stable and reliable. His work day ended at 4:30 pm and at 4:35 pm his station wagon pulled into the driveway. My brothers and I spilled out of the house, shouting “Daddy’s home!” and searched his pockets to see if he’d brought anything home for us. Most often not, but there were times when he had penny candy for everyone. When he couldn’t produce candy he made up for it by playing games with us, taking us to the local swimming hole for night swimming, or for a ride to the park to feed the ducks.
In the 70’s life was easier and families spent time together. My mother worked nights to supplement their income and Dad was in complete control. His idea of a good time was to go outside. We went fishing and swimming in summer and ice fishing, skating and tobogganing in winter.
In the house we helped him in his wood workshop where he made furniture and toys. The house always smelled of fresh cut wood. Every time I smell this scent I’m brought back 40+ years to life at 91 Auburn Street and my father’s table saw.
He could fix anything: his car, the plumbing, the electrical. He rebuilt a bathroom, put in new floors, turned a small room off of our dining room into a teenage girl's dream bedroom. He rebuilt rowboats and took us fishing in them.
He kept a garden and let us help plant, weed, and harvest.
For a man, he had the prettiest cursive handwriting. He used it to write my mother romantic love letters.
Our weekends were for family. We went to the beach, amusement parks, and visited aunts, uncles and cousins on both sides, sharing meals and making memories.
The most vivid recollection I have of my father is that he was there. My parents were melded together through thick and thin. Only death could tear them apart.
His legacy is an inspiration for life. I married a man just like him. I create men like him.
If only he knew.