My father passed away nine years ago today. Nine years. It was totally unexpected. As a matter-of-fact, he was healthier in the last six months than he had been in years. He had emphysema and he finally, finally stopped smoking and almost over night, was doing better and better. We thought he had a second lease on life. Who knows? Perhaps he did. He was happier at the end than he had been in a very long time.
I had a wonderful father. While I was growing up he did all kinds of father and son things with me. We were in the Indian Guides and went on camping trips. He built a huge train set in the basement with trees and buildings and tunnels. I remember once when he had to go overseas (he was in the Marines for over thirty years) he took me for a ride in his little red convertible. I couldn’t have been in more than second or third grade but I so remember that day!
Something happened when I was in the sixth grade. We stopped being close. It got worse over the next six years. I moved out and wanted little to do with him. But then, when my parents temporarily separated, he asked me if he could come spend a week with me while he looked for an apartment.
I think he was surprised when I said yes.
Funny thing happened during that week. We went to movies and restaurants that my mom would could have never been drug. We even went to this authentic little Japanese place and had sushi and octopus. It was a sad event that brought him to my home, but there was a silver lining. I think if we look, we will always find that silver lining. When he left my home, he in tears told me that he was sorry that he had wasted so much time. “I spent years trying to make you something you weren’t instead of being happy and proud of the man you are.”
From that day forward, and throughout the rest of his life, we were thick as thieves. When I split with my wife, it was him I told first. When I came out, he was the one who backed me up.
In the last week of his life, we were kind of pissed off at each other. I wouldn’t answer the phone. Then my mom called to tell me he was gone, it was pretty shocking. But you know what? There was no guilt. My mom actually asked me, “Don’t you feel guilty that you two were fighting when he died?”
But I didn’t. And I told her so. See, I believe that when we die we have access to information that we don’t have in life—even if it was only for a few seconds as he went to wherever it is we go (I leave that for you to decide). I think in one instant he saw the truth, he saw reality, he saw we were spatting over something stupid. My father was proud of me and I was (and am) proud of him. He served his county for over thirty years. He served my family as husband and father for more than that. He made me the man I am today.
I miss him. I still forget he’s gone! I will hear a joke I know he would like and reach for the phone to call him—and remember. Something breaks and I go to call him, knowing he would fix it in a trice. He was an artist. He was funny. He was loving.
I miss you, Dad. You re in my heart. In my life. I hope I am half the man you were.