PJC: “Always On My Mind”

Today is March 9th.

3 years ago on this day, I lost the man who had the greatest impact in shaping the woman I am today, my Dad, Patrick “Pat” Clinton.

Today, the music in my home, my car, my ears, my voice… Is the music I danced to in my early childhood, holding my Dad’s hands and standing on his feet as he taught and guided me through his favorite 2-step:

Honeysuckle Rose (1980)
Honeysuckle Rose (1980)

Willie Nelson, in particular, the album Honeysuckle Rose. “On the Road Again” was the theme song I sang from my seat in our family car, nearly every Friday evening as my Dad drove us from our apartment in NYC to the small log cabin on Kemah Lake, NJ.

Dad taught me how to fish on this lake. And to this day, I’m thinking my (unofficial) record for the biggest large-mouth bass caught in Newton, NJ still stands:

My Lunker, age 4 (1977)
My Lunker, age 4 (1977)
with Grampa Vince & Gramma Marie Clinton, Dad, & Sam

Then came The Teen Years.

And it’s funny… the father-daughter dynamic, in particular when said father and daughter are both such headstrong personalities. My Dad was an October Scorpio. I am a March Aries. So right there, anyone with any inkling of Astrology knows: Never a dull moment. 🙂 I’m pretty sure a portion of Dad was baffled by and mourned the loss of his self-proclaimed “Daddy’s Girl”. Headstrong, I’m telling you. Both of us.

Yet he and I got through them; who ever won those tests of Wills? I’m thinking it was an overall Draw.

Dad, Me, Ball (circa 1979)
Dad, Me, Ball (circa 1979)

Dad was the first one at the hospital for the birth of my first child, his first grandchild, my daughter Marie. And I was blessed to see a new dynamic to an ever-evolving man. He LOVED being a Grampa (less stress, more fun!).

Dad with Mars (2005)
Dad with Mars (2005)

And he adored each grandkid during the decade-span of their arrivals. Becoming a parent myself gave me a greater empathy and understanding for my own parents, which forged a new bond between us and strengthened bonds formed years prior. Dad and I also also discovered we shared a love of the artwork of David Tineo, which also forged a new communication pathway through art between father and daughter.

La Lunatica by David Tineo
La Lunatica by David Tineo

The 13 months he battled brain cancer gifted me with yet another insight to my father’s character:
The strength of his love for my mother, his partner, his friend. That year was probably the most difficult year I’d experienced in my life at that time, as his daughter — also a registered nurse — who couldn’t do a damn thing to stop the inevitable.

Dad, May 2012
Dad, May 2012

I could only offer help from a physical distance: Montana and Arizona never seemed so far apart as they did that year. I resented and hated the fact that I couldn’t be there for his appointments, so I could channel that feeling of powerlessness into something productive to help my Mom & Dad. But that was probably one of those disguised blessings, for I would have driven them both batshit crazy had I actually lived that close.

So the candle I light today is for you, Dad, in gratitude and love. Our relationship wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows, but it was strong, it was true, it was love, and it was ours. I am blessed. I love you, I miss you. You are always on my mind.

Dad in Cody, WY
Patrick J. Clinton

1934 ~ 2013