When I think back to the year my dad passed away, I always remember how weird it felt, to be having someone so close being taken from me while I was still so young. Really, all of three of us, "dad's girls" were too young. As we keep getting older, I know it will become more and more common that we have people around us who lose loved ones. I guess at some point it becomes a fact of life. We get older and so do those we love.
It's been close to five years and it's still kind of weird. I'm not sure there will ever be a year where I start thinking I feel 100% back to normal. In reality, each year kind of gets harder. When you're young (and stupid,) you don't remember to thank your dad for everything he's given you or taught you or made possible for you. When you're older (and a tad wiser,) you think of all the things you wish you could have thanked him for, and even harder, you think of all the things and times and places you wish you could share with him in adult life.
There are a few things I remember vividly about my dad and they're what I make myself hold onto, close and really tight. They're those types of memories you want to have to tell your children. The ones that never get old and never get forgotten. The ones that make you miss someone so much it hurts, but still make you smile.
This time of year, those memories are around margaritas. My dad's birthday is tomorrow, March 12. Looking back on the years I had with him, my dad-birthday memories revolved around Mexican restaurants. He loved Mexican food. Like really loved it. Loved making guacamole and homemade margaritas at home, loved the real-deal authentic hole in the wall restaurants we'd stumble upon on vacations and even loved the cheap chips and salsa type Mexican restaurants (as long as they'd bring him special "extra hot" salsa from the back).
These are the type of memories I keep in a special place tucked in my brain, and in my heart. I'm sure there were years we did something different, tried something new, but I remember the Mexican dinners and margaritas. And yes, I know for most of my birthdays spent with him, I was participating in the celebrations with virgin strawberry daiquiris topped with loads of whip cream. I even keep the memory of forcefully putting a big sombrero on his head while singing "Happy Birthday" so we could get a quick, embarrassing Polaroid picture as a souvenir. So in March each year, I remember him, the margaritas and really good family time together.
My dad and margaritas go together in more ways than birthday memories. Now that I'm older and also enjoy a killer margarita, it's like my "dad thing." My thing that I feel like I share with him. A thing I can use to celebrate his birthday, his life, his memory. Margaritas in their best form are simple: water, sugar, limes, orange liqueur and lots of good tequila. Maybe it's weird that in 22 years of him giving me life lessons, the one I keep top of mind is a margarita recipe. But aren't the simple life lessons sometimes the best?
I believe I'm strong enough in my faith to know my dad is peacefully in Heaven, drinking the best margaritas he's ever had. But I also believe he's proudly watching us down here on Earth getting by, with the help of a margarita every now and then.
So cheers to you, Dad. Thanks for giving us a fantastic reason to drink margaritas and eat chips and guacamole in your memory each year.
Your favorite line to me was always, "Make good choices." I hope you know I'm trying my best to honor that ask. And whenever I'm offered, I choose the good margarita, with the good tequila.