My dad and I at dinner when I was 16.
My dad and me at dinner when I was 16 years old.

For those of you who do not know, I am Manny’s youngest daughter Stephanie. But dad referred to me as Tuffy. He had nicknames for all of us kids. Tres was Buddy Blue, named after his obsession at a young age for the show Rainbow Bright, Marissa was always Reese, I think because she is the sweetest, and I was Tuffy — sometimes Tuffy McGuffy.

An iconic photo of my dad with his huge camcorder in the 80’s.
Dad always had a camcorder on hand to capture every family event.

Dad started calling me Tuffy after a family trip to Sea World. On this trip when I about 2 years old I tackled another toddler for a block they had taken from me. Most parents probably would have been mortified and embarrassed, but my dad’s reaction to the incident really set the tone for how he fathered.

He got a kick out of it. I know this because he recorded the whole incident on his huge video camera. He started calling me Tuffy and throughout my entire life would chuckle when telling the story. He would say in a deep voice “You’re Tough!”

I think he found pride in it because he saw himself in me.

Like with everyone my life hasn’t always been easy. Throughout my 20’s I was a single mom who fought to finish college and pursue a career I love. None of which would be possible without the encouragement of my dad. He was always there when I needed him. He always said exactly what I needed to hear.

When I was in labor with LaReah he camped out at the hospital the entire time…all 29 hours.

In some of my darkest moments, I would call my dad and he would always pick up. He was easy to talk to because he never jumped to conclusions. He would listen and remind me of my worth and my ability to persevere.

A good example of this was when LaReah was 4 years old. We were in a really bad car accident. We had been T-boned. I came out of the accident unscathed but LaReah’s face was badly bruised. We were rushed to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. My dad lived right down the street from us so I called him to come.

Once they had cleared LaReah with no traumatic injuries we were waiting silently in her hospital room. All I remember is beating myself up about it. I just kept telling myself how it was all my fault. My little girl was hurt.

Then my dad showed up. He pulled me out of the room and the first words he said was, “this is not your fault” and gave me a big hug.

That moment has stayed with me all these years. Because it was exactly what I needed to hear. My dad was always there.

My dad had a high moral sense of justice. So he told me to pursue a lawsuit because of the car accident… I usually brushed it off when he would tell me to sue whenever I was wrong, but this time I followed his advice and I actually won!

Dad would suggest things I thought were crazy all the time and I sometimes would follow his advice. Which often led me to get exactly what HE thought I deserved.

I really believe if there would have been a way for dad to file a lawsuit against his own body for giving out on him he would have. And he would have probably won!

Losing my dad is the hardest thing I have ever had to face. He has always been my biggest fan and my greatest ally. If I had an ax to grind I could always call my dad and he would let me grind it. My dad was a man who was fast to love and slow to judge.

Dad was always down for a good time and would come up with fun adventures for us to do. As a teenager, he would come to pick me up in his sports car and we would go cruising down mill avenue with the music blasting and the windows down.

My friends in high school would meet my dad at school events or whenever we needed him for something like to borrow his PA system for a school concert. Every time they would be like “That’s your dad?!”

I guess not every kid has a dad with a fancy sports car, who is in a band.

One of the last songs recorded where you can hear my dad singing was a few days before my wedding in April. Our best man was staying with us. He is a musician, so he and dad were jamming out in the living room. They were singing Take It Easy, by the Eagles.

To me, that song has always embodied the spirit of my dad.

One of my favorite lines from that song is

“We may lose, and we may win. Though we will never be here again”

Which is exactly how dad embraced life. Life was full of risks worth taking.

Before my dad passed I got to spend a lot of time with him. He lived with us for the last six months of his life. On paper, I was his caregiver, but he referred to me as his secretary. Which seemed about right.

When we weren’t at doctor's appointments we spent our time together, just hanging out. In some of my darkest moments of grief, I forget things. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember what we had spent the last 6 months doing. How did I see dad every day and not remember? So my husband and I made a list:

  • We celebrated Christmas together. I woke him up early to come open his presents.
  • Our entire household got COVID for two weeks and dad did better than all of us with it!
  • We cooked a lot, dad taught me how to make some of his favorite dishes
  • We sat around a lot listening to music and hearing stories from dad about growing up on an orchard farm and being an inflight respiratory therapist
  • We went through a few binge-watching phases. And I can confirm that dad also thought that we should help Free Britney Spears.
  • Dad got a scooter and we started a TikTok account named “Manny on the Move” He said he bought it to terrorize the neighborhood. Which really meant going around and complimenting all the neighbors on their yards
  • We planned and had our wedding on May 1st, where dad walked me down the aisle and danced with me at our reception. Dad played an integral part in our wedding and was even with us when we picked out the scriptures to be read during the service. On that day every time I looked at him he was smiling from ear to ear. He was so happy to see everyone after an entire year in quarantine.

Dad loved life and he loved people. Never in my life have I said I can’t do something until the day I knew I had to say goodbye to my dad. I thought to myself how am I going to live in a world without my dad. I never have before.

And since his passing, it is my faith that has gotten me through. That and realizing my dad is still here. Remembering all the values he instilled in me. Knowing exactly what he would say and do.

Like all of us, he was a human who made mistakes throughout his life. In his final moments, he told us that he was sorry for all of his mistakes.

In which I replied, “Dad, you are not your mistakes. You are the dad who has always been here supporting us and loving us.” I thanked my dad for always believing in me. Always standing by me and reminding me of my worth.

I would not be the person I am today without my dad. I know I will see him again. I know he is having a blast in heaven and I know when my time comes he will be there in heaven to give me one of his big hugs only a dad can.

My dad loved the Lord, he told me he was not afraid to die. He was ready to be reunited with his mom, dad and brother. All who he missed dearly and talked about often.

While my dad no longer lives with us here on earth I know he is watching over us. I know I will always be Manny’s daughter.

I want to thank my amazing husband for all his support. For being there for my dad while he was sick. They spent countless hours together talking about history, music, and movies. Dad told Patrick once “Wow it is so refreshing to talk to someone so smart” Which I don’t know what that means for the rest of us!

Patrick, your love has helped carry me through this season of grief and I know God placed you in my life to help carry me through this time. I firmly believe dad felt better about leaving because he knew you would be here to comfort me and LaReah. I love you.

Until I see you again Dad, take it easy. I love you.

A photo of me and my dad on my wedding day.
My wedding day, May 1st, 2021

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