My Father’s Day Tribute – James Vincent Blubaugh 07-19-1937 to 06-11-2016

MaryandDad-These past days and months were difficult in many ways for my wonderful dad and all of us who loved him. He was struggling with multiple illnesses, and except for a couple of times when he rallied – like the determined boxer he was in his youth – it was clear he was fading. And our hearts were breaking.

But it was also a tremendous blessing to be with him, to be able to care for a man I will forever think of as a caregiver for everyone else. He started in childhood, taking care of his mom, who had rheumatoid arthritis, and working from a young age. And he continued as the heart of our family, taking care of my brother and my sister and me, and my mom, who was ill.

My siblings and I did our best to follow his caring example and to bring happiness to his final days – serving him the home-style Midwestern dishes that our mom used to make when she was feeling well. Dishes like tuna fish casserole, chicken over biscuits and French toast. Comfort food. I think many of you know what we like to eat in this family. (smile)

And Dad – even as sick as he was – was so sweet in showing his appreciation to every single person. The nurses would come to prick and prod, and it was uncomfortable, but he would always smile at them and give a heartfelt “Thank you.” And I do know he was truly grateful, but I also think it was one of those ways he took care of other people, letting them know that he thought they were doing a good job, encouraging them.

One of my most treasured memories of Dad taking care of me is from the summer I was 9 years old. I had been wowed by a new folk Mass at church where people got up and played instruments and sang. My dad saw my interest and wanted to give me a chance to try to join in, so he surprised me with a present one day – a little blonde guitar. We weren’t a wealthy family, and my dad had so much to handle, but somehow he found the money and time to take me to lessons so I could learn to play that guitar. I like to think of it as something he did to help me learn to take care of myself, and to this day, singing and playing guitar are among my greatest joys in life.

As a child and as an adult, I loved my dad dearly and spent all of the time with him that I could. I loved to hear him tell me – again, as a former boxer – that he was in my corner. But I worried about the time we spent apart, worried that maybe he didn’t fully know how much he meant to me. In his last moments, he reassured me. We thought he was gone, but he came back somehow – revived to tell me he that I was a good daughter. It was, I suppose, a final way of taking care of me.

I feel so fortunate to be here today with all of you to say to him, as sincerely as he always said it: “Thank you, Dad”

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