Well, it's June, a month of graduations, weddings, fog in Ventura, time for the endless supply of snow to melt in Steamboat Springs, summer vacations, and most of all Father's Day.
Some of you reading this will know who I am speaking of in detail when I mention the name Peter J. Gartlan, some of you will know more about him after reading this blog. Peter J. Gartlan was my father. He was no ordinary man. He was a saint. He was a loving husband to Joan for over 30+ years. He was a mentor to most every one he met. He had a wicked, beyond bizarre sense of humor. He loved Benny Hill, though for the life of me I don't understand why. He was a father who loved each and every one of his children - each in their own unique way, making us feel special. He was a grandfather to Eryn Corry (who was named in honor of him) and Bryan Scott, who was his little sport. Daddy was my best friend, my confidante, the ray of sunshine in my life, and someone who taught me how to be compassionate and to stand up for what I believed. Daddy loved coaching soccer, going to Girl Scout father/daughter events, sitting around a campfire with Indian Guides, taking us hiking on weekend mornings to "Three Trees" (the Getty oil fields at the end of Rinaldi in Porter Ranch).
Daddy was the kind of person that God creates every once on awhile, just to throw an angel into the mix, and remind us the way we should be. Decent and kind; just down-right funny and with a kick of Irish spunk to make you believe in leprechauns and fairy-people.
Peter Joseph Gartlan was born to Patrick & Mary Corry Gartlan at Drumgoolan House, in Louth, Ireland on June 18, 1925. He was in the middle. His older siblings were Maurice, Gertie, then Daddy, then Michael, Anthony and Joan. Anthony and Joan died young, as did a great many Irish back when TB (the consumption) was running rampant, or a scrape from a bike mishap would result in staph, then death. They are all gone now; all the brothers and sisters in heaven, together with their parents, and those before them. We wait here. Sometimes I wish the wait would not be so long, but then remember that Daddy was full of life. Even near the end of his life, he taught his children the lessons of living to the fullest of our God-given potential.
Some of you reading this will remember Daddy. And let me assure you - he remembered every single soul he met along the road. At his funeral, I had people come up to me, some of whom I knew, others were complete strangers. They all had stories. "Your Dad - well he did this for me, or he did that for me". And that was just like Daddy...he wanted to ensure that every single soul he met would leave their meeting feeling just a wee bit better about themselves. Daddy had so much love inside of himself, his spirit, his soul, that it just over-filled into every square inch of life.
Daddy was a special man, and he left a mark on this world that none of us are sure to forget anytime soon - well actually, lets be honest - we will never forget those lessons. He loved to dabble in quirky animal drawings, write secret pen pal notes to his children, even until we were old enough to realize who the author was. I have all those little notes, the paper long since faded into yellow, brittle, with worn edges, scraps of paper, each with a few lines, some typed, some hand written, all with notes of positive encouragement for a job well done. Each with a little owl, or cat drawn at the bottom.
His mannerisms are as vivid today as they were 40 years ago. His method of dialing a rotary phone, or hitching his pants up when discussing something of major importance, or how he looked sitting in his easy chair in the den, reading Time Magazine. Daddy was a fashion icon long before Puf Diddy, Puf Daddy or any other suave dudes were around. Always looking smart in his creased trousers, freshly pressed shirts, tie, black socks and dress shoes, Daddy was so GQ! Unfortunately for Daddy, he failed, miserably, in backyard attire. No where in this world have I ever seen such a dapper dresser in the lawn mowing category! White t-shirt, plaid bermuda shorts, black dress socks and either black shoes or his favorite pair of comfy slippers. And lets not forget a plaid golf cap. Sunday afternoon were like a walk down the streets of 1950 suburbia, and Daddy in the backyard, mowing the lawn, slinging dog crap over the fence, dragging the trash cans to the curb Sunday evenings, or the infamous charbroiling (and I do mean CHAR) of Petey burgers. Like pucks of overdone ground beef - and yet no one can duplicate them. He was a culinary genius at hot dog cooking, making of oatmeal, tough enough to hold a house together, and the artistry of shining or polishing his childrens' shoes before heading to Sunday mass. He was simply beyond any words!
On a rainy Saturday evening in March 1995, with his entire family around his bed, Daddy slipped the golden gates and entered heaven. He died on his own terms, with a beautiful coastline of crashing waves just beyond the sliding glass door of our own living room. He held my hand, and we all spoke to him as he took his last breaths. It was about 830 at night when Daddy left us. It was a rough night. I cried and my husband John hugged me throughout the long night. The next day was spectacular - bright and sun shining up and down the coast. The beach was breathtaking - long, purposeful strides on the wet sand, conforming to my toes as I walked along the watery shore, avoiding getting too wet, as in early March the water is not warm. The reality hit me when I walked back to my parents house and realized I would not hear my Dad's Irish voice any longer. It dug deep, like a knife.
But, then, deep in my heart, I heard a voice. A voice so beautiful, so calming, so gilded. The voice of someone I knew so very well. My Daddy. I heard the song of love and devotion of a man who adored his children, his wife and his grandchildren. I heard the Irish sense of humor, the hearty laugh, even felt the warm sensation of a hug. And I heard a whisper in my ear.
Ann Corry...get going, pull yourself up by your boot straps, face forward and walk with confidence. That was 1995, and today, as Father's Day and Peter J. Gartlan's birthday approaches us, that voice remains loud, audible and forever printed on my heart.
I love you Daddy!
xxoo your daughter Ann Corry