Heather’s late father, Marvin Alwine, was an Allen County Sheriff’s Deputy. He and Heather’s mother, a nurse, worked opposite shifts, so her dad was with her in the evenings.
“My father and I were the best of friends,” Heather recalled. “It is funny because he always wanted a son but he had me instead. He never treated me like a girl. In fact, his nickname for me was Fred. He had me digging in the yard planting shrubs and flowers alongside him. I would help reload ammunition for the Sheriff’s Department in his shop. I was in 4H Shooting Sports, and he was the ‘den father’ for my Brownie and Girl Scout troops. The list of things the two of us did together could go on for days. My childhood was exceptional.”
What was your relationship like with your dad when you were a kid?
I never grew up thinking that we did not have a lot of money. I never wanted for anything. My father would work a second job on his days off to send me to private school and we went on great family vacations. Many times, we would go to Frankenmuth, Michigan or Greenfield Village near Detroit or Brown County, and I never knew those places were not a million miles away. As long as we were together, the world was perfect.
As you would expect from the father of a girl, who also just so happened to be a police officer, my dating life was unique. If you could picture the scene from Bad Boys with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, you would not be far off. He was quite protective and now that I am a mother of a little boy, I fully understand why.
When I went away to college at Xavier University in Cincinnati, my father essentially came along for the ride. He never went away to traditional college as he went to the Police Academy after serving in the US Navy. My college years were also a time for him to have fun. He came to visit me most weekends and my friends thought he was the best dad ever.
One summer, my mother got very sick but we did not realize just how sick she was. Her death came suddenly and rocked my father and me to the core. The very second my mother slipped from our lives, I felt the roles reverse. I needed to protect him from harm. That reversal of roles is a painful and challenging experience for anyone going through it.
A number of years after my mother passed, my father developed Alzheimer’s disease. Watching this man, my hero and best friend forget my mother, his family, his friends and co-workers, and eventually forgetting who I was shredded the very fabric of me. My commitment to my father deepened from protector to fierce advocate. Making certain that he received the best care, with the most dignity was my mission. I was with my father almost every day. He did not know my name or that I was his daughter, but he did recognized my familiar face that came to see him nearly every day. Close to the end of my father’s life was Christmastime and the memory care unit had people singing carols for the residents. I wheeled my father down to listen to them on one of our daily walks around the facility. Some days, I would wheel him to the front of the building to feel snowflakes on his face while other days I would show him the birds in the aviary or dance a crazy dance for him in hopes of a smile. On this particular day, we sat and listened to the Christmas songs and my sweet father reached for my hand for the last time. His strong hands were now thin and frail but the love that my father had for me was still ever present.
My father spent the majority of his life providing for me and giving me everything that I needed. Being there for him was no job for me at all. It was exactly where I wanted and needed to be. My father passed knowing that I loved him fiercely and that I would do anything for him, and that is the greatest gift I could have given him and myself.
What is your favorite memory of your dad from when you were younger?
When I think of a good time with my dad, I always flash back to one very early morning when he and I went to his favorite coffee shop for breakfast, where he always let me sip his coffee. Then we drove over near Smith Field to watch the Fire and Police departments have a tug of war contest. It was just a perfect morning with my daddy.
How did your relationship with your dad change over your lifetime?
The evolution of playmate and best pal to someone I needed to protect and advocate for was difficult.
How did your dad influence your life?
My father allowed me to take risks and learn from them. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. The sky was the limit, and I hope to be as free with my son as he grows up.
What qualities do you share with your dad?
I share many of his qualities. But a unique one that I am often reminded of is: (keep in mind that he was a police officer almost my entire life) I have developed an uncanny knack of knowing when someone is not telling the truth.
Did your dad have a favorite quote or mantra?
Never lie, cheat or steal. These were words that we lived by in our home.
My hope for anyone reading this is that you take this moment to tell your father just how much you love him or clear the air with him. You never know when the opportunity will be lost.