Two summers ago on a hot Dallas day, I heard my father tell me he loved me for the last time. He said it at least 5 times in a row, his dark brown eyes trained on my weeping Hazels, ensuring that I clearly understood his thrice worded message.
I know, I know, this isn’t the cheeriest way to begin a Wednesday, but I frankly consider myself lucky. Not everyone has someone who deeply inspires them in their life. What’s incredible is that my greatest hero loved me more than I understand. In fact when I was born, and my family loves to retell the tale, my father ran out of my mother’s hospital room, arms flailing and shouting excitedly, “It’s a giiiirl!!! It’s my baby giiiiirl!!!”
His happy spirit was coupled with a sparkling sense of humor, heaped with a side of unquenchable curiosity. A marker of which was his ostensible ease in learning 6 languages (I’m still working, poorly, on my second), and motivated him to chase after each and every one of his dreams.
That’s right, my father was a dreamer. But you wouldn’t think that upon first glance at his curriculum vitae. His strict upbringing by my well to do grandparents in Mexico taught him the fierce determination to excel in German schooling. His heart, however, belonged with the United States. He dreamed the American dream and, long story short, eventually joined the US Army after receiving his medical degree in the same country.
He wanted to become a surgeon, and that he did. But he didn’t do it holed up in a library (enter flashbacks of my graduate study in the dustiest corners of SDSU’s Love Library). He did it traveling through Europe, all the while with my beautiful mother and older siblings. He was serving with the American military and eventually became a Colonel. I could go on and on, but one other note is that somewhere in there he also found the time to become a pilot.
Col. Ralph R. Erdmann M.D, was and is my father. He sounds accomplished, but while I greatly respect his credentials they pail in comparison to his ability to treat me like the most cherished girl in the world. I was affectionately dubbed his “precious princess,” and feel a tear (alright fine, many of them) roll down my cheek as I consider how I will never again hear him utter his favorite moniker.
While I don’t think that’s fair or ok, I do think that he would be bummed watching my sadness and occasionally frequent feeling of loss. He hated it when I cried. He’d quickly do anything he could to cease my tears and find the laughter hidden somewhere behind the salty streams.
“Ice cream! To eat, let’s go out to eat!” he’d suggest excitedly in his muddled German/Mexican accent.
At some point today, that’s precisely what I will do. And Dad I expect you to do the same, but with a side of flan and marzipan, because as I understand calories don’t count up there.
To you, the sweetest and bravest Father in the world, I wish you the happiest of birthdays.
To my friends – please call your Father today, and maybe treat him to a bowl of ice cream.