|Frank Coghlan as the Third Base Coach in the movie Angels in the Outfield|
Eight years ago today my father Frank Coghlan died. I still miss him and will forever.
Life with him was an adventure. He was an only child growing up. He was doted upon by his mother. Then he met my mother who doted on him even more. Even as each of the seven children arrived and their personalities grew, Frank stayed at the center of everything. We knew who was boss. We knew the rules and the consequences for breaking them, but we broke them all the time anyway.
We went on vacations together packed into a station wagon with stuff piled high on the top.I distinctly remember a trip to the Settle World's Fair in 1962. My sister Joan was a little baby and my brother Pat wasn't even on the scene yet. That was just after my kindergarten year. I remember the teacher having us share what the summer plans were for the families. Mine was the most exciting - no other 6 year old was heading to Seattle. The teacher was incredulous. "Are you ALL going? Even the new baby?" From her tone, I thought Seattle must be a wonderful exotic place. It never dawned on me at all that packing 5 kids and a baby into a station wagon and driving for three days was anything other than normal.
Inevitably there would be fights in the car. My dad didn't care for those and would come up with games to keep us occupied. Every family looked for out of state plates, but only the Coghlans had to yell out the capital of the state they saw. He would ignore our pleas for burgers as we passed those stands on the road and drive as far as possible before stopping. Unless he wanted to stop and then we did. Over and over and over again. On one crowded station wagon trip in Western Canada, he stopped to see so many different scenic spots that we all refused to get out of the car for one lake. (My mother still swears that was the prettiest of all)
My parents had a place at Lake Tahoe where we spent many a summer. My mom would just move up there with whatever kids were home for the entire summer and my dad would come on weekends. Because he was self employed, he defined "weekend" differently than most people. He would arrive Thursday evening and leave Tuesday morning. If the older kids were working in the City and wanted to go to Tahoe for the "weekend" it was tough to convince our employers what "weekend" meant. Hence, we would find our own way up there. Besides, we generally wanted to avoid riding to Tahoe with Dad. There is a freeway that takes you within 20 miles of their house, but he often elected to go on the byways of California, easily turning a 3.5 hour trip into 6 hours.
Hanging out in Tahoe was also fun. As teenagers we would find our friends and together we would avoid our parents - though most of them were sitting together about 6 feet away from us avoiding us to the extent possible. My dad didn't really hang out on the beach, though. Why would you sit on the beach when you could be swimming in that giant lake? While we braved the cold water to swim in the designated swim area to the raft 30 yards out, or jump off the pier when the lifeguard wasn't looking, or even sneak a water ski if someone had a boat, my dad would just step into the water and swim off into the distance. Sometimes he would do a loop and return an hour or so later, other times my mother would instruct one of us to go get he car and pick him up at the Tahoma market, 1.5 miles south. We thought nothing of it. He did the same thing in the San Francisco Bay.
It's hard to believe it's been eight years since I've talked to him. But, of course it hasn't been. I talk to him all the time. I smile when I remember things that were so perfectly "Frank" for lack of a better description. He was kind. he was principled, he was strict, he was loving, he was smart, he was successful, he was loyal, he was funny and very very sentimental.
I know he was there to welcome Maggie when she arrived. He adored her -- as he did all 20 of his grandchildren. He likely showed her some shortcuts around the afterlife, which doubled the time it takes to get where he's going, but makes the trip so much more enjoyable.
Miss you, dad. Today and always.