The Coolest Dad in the Universe
By Angie K. Ward-Kucer
He was 50 years old when I was born, and a "Mr. Mom" long before
anyone had a name for it. I didn't know why he was home instead of
Mom, but I was young and the only one of my friends who had their
dad around. I considered myself very lucky.
Dad did so many things for me during my grade-school years. He
convinced the school bus driver to pick me up my house instead of
the usual bus stop that was six blocks away. He always had my lunch
ready for me when I came home - usually a peanut butter and jelly
sandwich that was shaped for the season. My favorite was at
Christmas. The sandwiches would be sprinkled with green sugar and
cut in the shape of a tree.
As I got a little older and tried to gain my independence, I wanted
to move away from those "childish" signs of his love. But he wasn't
going to give up. In high school and no longer able to go home for
lunch, I began taking my own. Dad would get up a little early and
make it for me. I never knew what to expect. The outside of the sack
might be covered with his rendering of a mountain scene (it became
his trademark) or a heart inscribed with "Dad-n-Angie K.K." in its
center. Inside there would be a napkin with that same heart or an "I
love you." Many times he would write a joke or a riddle, such as
"Why don't they ever call it a momsicle instead of a popsicle?" He
always had some silly saying to make me smile and let me know that
he loved me.
I used to hide my lunch so no one would see the bag or read the
napkin, but that didn't last long. One of my friends saw the napkin
one day, grabbed it, and passed it around the lunch room. My face
burned with embarrassment. To my astonishment, the next day all my
friends were waiting to see the napkin. From the way they acted, I
think they all wished they had someone who showed them that kind of
love. I was so proud to have him as my father. Throughout the rest
of my high school years, I received those napkins, and still have a
majority of them.
And still it didn't end. When I left home for college (the last one
to leave), I thought the messages would stop. But my friends and I
were glad that his gestures continued.
I missed seeing my dad every day after school and so I called him a
lot. My phone bills got to be pretty high. It didn't matter what we
said; I just wanted to hear his voice. We started a ritual during
that first year that stayed with us. After I said good-bye he always
"Yes, Dad?" I'd reply.
"I love you."
"I love you, too, Dad."
I began getting letters almost every Friday. The front-desk staff
always knew who the letter were from - the return address said "The
Hunk." Many times the envelopes were addressed in crayon, and along
with the enclosed letters were usually drawings of our cat and dog,
stick figures of him and Mom, and if I had been home the weekend
before, of me racing around town with friends and using the house as
a pit stop. He also had his mountain scene and the heart-encased
inscription, Dad-n-Angie K.K.
The mail was delivered every day right before lunch, so I'd have
his letters with me when I went to the cafeteria. I realized it was
useless to hide them because my roommate was a high school friend
who knew about his napkins. Soon it became a Friday afternoon
ritual. I would read the letters, and the drawing and envelope would
be passed around.
It was during this time that Dad became stricken with cancer. When
the letters didn't come on Friday, I knew that he had been sick and
wasn't able to write. He used to get up at 4:00a.m. so he could sit
in the quiet house and do his letters. If he missed his Friday
delivery, the letters would usually come a day or two later. But
they always came. My friends used to call him "Coolest Dad in the
Universe." And one day they sent him a card bestowing that title,
signed by all of them. I believe he taught all of us about a
father's love. I wouldn't be surprised if my friends started sending
napkins to their children. He left an impression that would stay
with them and inspire them to give their own children their
expression of their love.
Throughout my four years of college, the letters and phone calls
came at regular intervals. But then the time came when I decided to
come home and be with him because he was growing sicker, and I knew
that our time together was limited. Those were the hardest days to
go through. To watch this man, who always acted so young, age past
his years. In the end he didn't recognize who I was and would call
me the name of a relative he hadn't seen in many years. Even though
I knew it was due to his illness, it still hurt that he couldn't
remember my name.
I was alone with him in his hospital room a couple of days before
he died. We held hands and watched TV. As I was getting ready to
leave, he said, "Angie?"
"I love you."
"I love you, too, Dad."