Happy birthday to the man, just 'Daddy'

Last night my youngest told me a memory she had of Daddy, in our old house, before he was sick. She would have been 3 then. She said she remembers when they were in the bathtub with music on in the background and while I was washing them up, Daddy would sneak behind me and start dancing silly. But as soon as I'd turn around, he'd stop and pretend he wasn't doing anything and they'd all laugh.

I told her to go write it up in her journal, so she'll always have that memory of dad because that's exactly who he was. That's who she should always remember.

A brochure came in the mail the other day. It was addressed to the homeowner that built this house 20 years ago. I almost threw it out. But then I glanced at the front. I saw that this nonprofit organization, which helps people with disabilitiesa charity my husband tirelessly helpedis dedicating one of their new group homes, "The Matthew Remke Home" in his honor this spring.

My children were silent when I showed them this page. They are rarely silent.

They don't understand fully yetand even I am still discovering dailywhat an amazing man I was married to and shared life with for more than two decades. How far-reaching and impactful his life was in this small corner of the world. Because to them, he was just 'Daddy.'

I know his business colleagues and co-workers mourn a man who was brilliant behind the desk, friendly in the office breakroom, patient and funny in the boardroom. I know his friends mourn the guy who was great at showing up for them, planning boat trips, laughing at the bar the one who really kicked ass at camaraderie. I know his parents and sisters mourn the profound loss of their only brother and son, the perfect boy who grew up to be the epitome of what the perfect man should be.

But the kids and I mourn a different man. Not so much the guy who donated money or coordinated charity auctions for organizations like the ones in this brochure. We didn't care too much about the cost-saving he did for his business behind the scenes or how amazingly he handled work life or what a great buddy he was to his best friend Adam.

We mourn bathtub-time-singing Daddy. The man who made us giggle and laugh, who made us happy by just walking in the door. The man who made us feel loved and safe and cared for. The man who gave us 110% at home only after giving 120% all day at work. We mourn the guy who read bedtime stories and cuddled on the couch on Sunday afternoons. The man who blew up bike tires and raked the yard (but mostly the toilet plunging he did). We mourn the man who could cook and grill and still have energy enough to make homemade chocolate chip cookies. That's who we miss.

We still mourn just 'Daddy.'


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