Guest Post from Kathy of My Dishwasher’s Possessed, on the Gift She Never Wanted, but is So Glad She Got

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc
photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

I bond with most of you over stuff like, say, bacon.

Or baseball. Or, just being a parent. It’s a pretty cool gig.

Kathy Radigan, the author of My Dishwasher’s Possessed blog, has three kids, just like me. But the big bond is the fact that we both had that moment in our lives when we had to come to grips with the reality we might lose our fathers.

Kathy’s sharing the story about her dad today at Coach Daddy.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I loved it when she sent it to me. I encourage you to check out her blog too – where she tells about her bond with her daughterΒ and covers the fleeting nature of parenthood.

She also has contributed to a book on my must-read list.

So welcome Kathy today. You’re going to love her story.

A gift I never wanted, but am so glad to have

This October I celebrated a milestone birthday, I turned 48.

I am now the same age as my father was when he had his heart attack.

Twenty-five years later I remember sitting on the Long Island Railroad not knowing what I was going to face when the train pulled into the familiar station.

The year was 1988, way before everyone had a cell phone. It was totally possible that I was going to arrive and find out that my dad did not make it.

Thoughts and memories started to assault me. I was scared. What was I coming home to?

It just seemed so impossible. I had spoken with my mother in the morning before I went to my new job as a hostess at a trendy restaurant. I usually would check my machine when I was at work. But it was a Sunday, and I wasn’t expecting anyone to call.

When I did I was surprised to find 10 messages on my machine. How’d I get so popular?

Lonely and alone

With each message, my heart beat faster.

At first, they were somewhat benign: Daddy may have had a heart attack. We’re on our way to the hospital.

Then the messages kept coming, each one sounding more alarming than the next, till the last of the ten played: Β Where are you? Get home now.

In a matter of minutes, my life changed. I finally got through to my mother. She had her sweet, too calm telephone voice. That was when I knew things were really bad.

“Hi, honey. Yes, daddy had a heart attack. No, it does not look good at all; he probably won’t make it. Come home as fast as you can. I love you.”

At times of family crisis, my mother would routinely adopt a tone of voice better suited to telling me that Macy’s was running a sale on purses. It was not the tone of a woman whose husband was in intensive care after a major heart attack.

I didn’t know what to do. I lived by myself in a studio apartment. I felt lonely and alone.

No time to make peace

My dad was 48 and in good shape. This shouldn’t be happening.

I called my best friend Kay who said she would take the train home with me. Thankfully the ride was only an hour, but I was terrified.

As I sat on the train, Kay by my side, I didn’t know what to think. I had never been really close to my father.

We had always had a strange and strained relationship. It wasn’t uncommon for me to call home and just say a cursory hi and then ask for my mom.

I thought to myself that my dad may have died, and I never had time to repair the relationship. He was going to leave me before I had time to make peace with him.

The train finally pulled into Northport, and I gasped.

My father’s two oldest friends were standing on the platform waiting to pick me up.

I knew this was serious

This was not a good sign. I was used to seeing my dad’s best friend, Ernie, he was like an uncle to me. But I hadn’t seen my dad’s friend George in about four or five years. I knew this was serious.

We got to the hospital, and my mother greeted me as if we had just come to a party.

It’s a strange family trait that the more serious the situation, the calmer we get. My mom was telling Kay she was so glad she came with me. And, she had a huge smile on her face as she said “Daddy had a major heart attack. They don’t think he is going to make it through the night.”Β My sisters and I still laugh with my mother over this.

Now that I’m older I can understand the reaction a bit more. There are some things that are so immense, so horrible that if you actually felt them you could not function.

Everywhere I looked there was a relative or family friend in the hospital waiting room. Some people I had not seen for years. Everyone waiting to hear any news that might come.

I was weeks away from my 23rd birthday and the real possibility that my dad would not be around to see me get married or have children was almost unbearable.

The thought that kept going through my mind was that I had not made peace with this man. We could have such volatile conversations about everything from movies to politics. I had felt whatever I did was wrong in his eyes. I loved him, but we did not get along.

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My father had suffered a lot of damage to his heart, and we were told that he would be very lucky if he lived five years. That was 27 years ago.

After the heart attack, I knew that time was precious. If I wanted to repair the relationship I was going to have to do it sooner rather than later.

And we did.

I think of all the moments I have had with this man since that day.

The Saturday he picked me up from the train and I told him I had fallen in love with the man who is now my husband. Dancing with my dad at my wedding. Watching him dance at both my sisters’ weddings.

The phone call I made when I told him his first grandchild would be a boy. Or each time he came to visit me after having all of my babies. Times I feared I would never have with him.

There are also all the times he has come to my rescue when my sink was overflowing or one of the kids locked themselves in the bathroom.

hed3 here

Or the many times he has come with me to meet a new specialist to try to figure out what was wrong with my special needs daughter.

I do my best not to take a day with my dad for granted. As the years have gone by, and I have become a parent myself, I have found his help and even friendship invaluable.

I’ve made my dad promise he won’t die. I know he will do his best to keep that promise, but in the event that he can’t, I’m eternally grateful that I have had the gift of knowing that I not only made peace with him, but I have gotten to really enjoy being his daughter.

It never ceases to amaze me how some of our life’s most difficult challenges can turn into some of life’s greatest gifts.

kathy father quote


  1. Beautiful post, Kathy. Not gonna lie–it made me teary-eyed. I lost my dear father five years ago. He was my idol–my mentor, and I miss him terribly. I’m so happy your father recovered and you are able to share all the special moments in your life with him. XO

      1. Marcia thank you so much! I’m so sorry to hear about your father, I can’t imagine what it must be like, I have come to rely so heavily on mine. I totally agree with Eli, I don’t know how it can’t be a life defining moment. πŸ™‚

  2. Kathy, this was absolutely beautiful. My dad actually just had a major heart attack and stroke last year, we are just so thankful that he made it through and I like you don’t take any more days with him for granted now at all either. Seriously though loved knowing that your dad made it and is still here so many years later. Thank you for sharing this here today with all of us πŸ™‚

    1. Janine thank you so much! I did not realize that you just went through this with your own dad. It is strange to say this, but it really does become a gift. Even though you always know you won’t have your parents forever, when you go through a close call with them it really puts it right in your face and I find makes each day you together that much more precious. I really don’t take a day I have with my dad granted. (That’s not to say he can’t drive me crazy, especially around politics!! Lol! )

      1. Kathy, you just made me totally smile and lol, because although I don’t take my time with him for granted, mine totally drives me crazy sometimes, too. So, yes I can totally relate on that front, too πŸ™‚

  3. Kathy, this is beautiful. And hits very close to home for me. My dad suffered a major heart attack when he was just 47. I was 10. He had quintuple bypass surgery, and was told the veins taken from his legs would only last 10 years, 15 at the max. It’s been more than 22 years, and he just celebrated his 69th birthday last October. I don’t tell him enough, but I am so thankful he has been here to celebrate so many milestones. Graduations, weddings, the arrival of my daughter and his first grandchild, the arrival of 5 more grandchildren across the family, including my second. Like you, I am eternally grateful I was given a second chance to truly appreciate and enjoy being his daughter.

      1. Nicole I’m so glad your dad defied the odds too! It’s an amazing gift!!

        10 is so young to have to go through all of this, that must have been so hard on your whole family. I’m thrilled it has had such a happy ending. Thank you!! πŸ™‚

  4. Oh my. This was wonderful. My own father just had aortic valve replacement. He is 78. And although it was his first time to ever be hospitalized, I felt many of the emotions that this writer went through.

    One line that resonated with me and that I’ll remember:
    There are some things that are so immense, so horrible that if you actually felt them you could not function.

    Thanks for sharing Kathy.

    1. That is an incredible line – I remember feeling this with my dad, and almost wondering why I was able to function when faced with the most awful experience of my life to date.

    2. Thank you so much for saying that! It took me a long time to understand my mother’s reaction and now that I’m older I really get it.

      I’m so glad that your dad is doing well. It’s amazing the advances they are doing with heart disease. Thanks again! πŸ™‚

      1. Thank you so much Beth. I have to say getting the chance to repair and enjoy my relationship with my dad is one of the best gifts I have ever been given and I’m eternally grateful for!! πŸ™‚

  5. Beautiful post, Kathy! How lucky you and your dad were to have a second chance to make your relationship more meaningful to both of you. My dad and I were always very close, and I just lost him in October. Even though I had him for 56 years, I miss him very much.

    1. Nancy thank you so much!! It is scary how quickly your life can change. I thought of that as I was reading some of the thoughtful comments here today too. We really never know. xo

  6. Hey Kathy, I lost my own dad in 2010 and we, too, always had a strained relationship since my parents divorced when I was very young. I’m so glad you got that gift, so glad you were able to turn the relationship around and most of all, so glad he’s still around to see your children grow! Hugs to you.

  7. Like many other commenters, your post hit home for me, Kathy. My childhood relationship with my father was much like yours, and when I was pregnant with my second child he had a major heart attack. Every since then, he has lived each day like it could be his last, and his relationships with his daughters and grandchildren have flourished because of that. Challenges turning into gifts – how true.

    1. Dana, I got chills when I read this! I’m so glad you too got a second chance with your dad. My father changed dramatically as well which certainly helped our relationship. So happy for you and your family!! πŸ™‚

  8. I don’t even know where to start with this. I lost my mom when I was 17 so when I read that it was 27 years ago that happened and you’ve since had all these wonderful life experiences was almost too much for me to read. How I wish this is how my mom’s cancer had turned out! It makes me unbelievably happy that you’ve repaired your relationship with your dad and you’ve gotten this second chance. Thank you so much for sharing this! I absolutely loved reading it. May he live forever!

  9. I was reading so slowly, so I wouldn’t spoil the ending. I was hopeful. This is beautiful. I’m 33 and my father had a heart attack when he was 36. He did not make it through the night and I was only three-nearly-four and I never really knew him, ya know?
    I miss him a lot these days, now that I have a son with his dark eyes and hair. And seeing my now four-year-old get older than I ever got, with her dad intact.
    Really, really, beyond-words, ecstatic to read the end of this story. Like a movie.

    1. Tamara thank you! I am so sorry you had to go through that. My husband lost his mother when he was 12 and I know it has been very bittersweet for him to watch our kids grow up with a mom. I want to thank you for reminding me just how fortunate I was to not only get him for the first 23 years, but to get him for another 27+ on top of that! Sending hugs!! xo

  10. Nicole, thanks for being who you are. Our life has been so “special” having had second and third chances to realize how much we mean to each other. You and your sister Literally “awlked me back to health”. Now, I need to make another effort to recapture some of my younger energy and strength to enjoy those wonders of the world (Bean and Monkey. I have truly been blessed by all the wonderful gifts God has given me, especially the chances HE gave me to “dance at your weddings”, enjoy my grandchildren, and realize that I was put on earth to be a father. Hopefully, I have been a good father to you and my other children. Thanks for all the love and joy you bring to my life. Love, Papa Q……..

      1. Growing up, my dad always told my sister and me it was his life’s goal to dance at our weddings. The pictures tell all. I was a big, blubbering mess.

        But I hear ya! I’m in no rush for my girls to grow up, fall in love, and get married. In fact, I’m currently researching towers to lock them away in for at least the next 20 years!

  11. Beautiful Kathy! Glad you got a happy ending.
    Stories like this are always so bittersweet for me. I am so happy for others who get that second chance, or 3rd….. for a great father-daughter bond. But I know it is highly unlikely I ever will myself. Normally if you asked me, I’d say I would not give my father a glass of water if he was on fire. Assuming I knew where he was these days. And yet… your story makes me pause. Because if he dies….it’s final. Even if half my life it was I wishing him dead.
    Yet, your heart always has that glimmer of hope…right? maybe if he wasn’t just a useless violent, drunk? maybe we could have something. But I know….even if he never, ever changes. that glimmer won’t die. I will always wonder if there was ever a chance.

  12. That was just beautiful, Kathy! My dad recently had surgery and I was worried about the outcome and stressed about being able to get there to be with him (back in the beginning of December when we had an ice storm predicted). I did take comfort in the fact that even though our relationship is not perfect, I didn’t feel like there was anything we desperately needed to fix between us. I’ve heard too many stories where it was just to late and people had horrible regrets. I’m glad that in both our cases, that was not the case!

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