It’s been exactly one year to the day and not a day goes by that I don’t think of my dad and miss him in the kind of way I imagine one would miss an amputated limb. He takes up almost every thought I have some days. I feel alone in the world with him gone. I find myself wanting to ask him for advice and I can’t just pick up the phone or drive over and do that anymore. When I want to laugh, I no longer have the person who could make me laugh harder than anyone else. Whenever I see something in a store I think he’d like, I have no one to buy it for. I can’t tell him about my day and listen to stories about his. I can’t ask him questions only he would know the answer to, like the time of day I was born. I have no one to ask what time of day I was born. That realization hurts my heart the way it hurt years ago when my dad told me that he never even had the chance to play a game of catch with his dad because he had passed away when my dad was just three years old.
I had 24 years with him, and I can’t help but wish for 24 more. I always wonder if my brother feels like I do. He seems so happy all the time. Then again, I probably appear to be just fine on the outside, too. I wish my dad could see all the great things my brother’s doing. He’d be so damn proud of him, just like I am. I can see in my mind what it’d be like, his big beaming smile, encouraging tight hug, and the excitement in his voice as he’d say, “Alright!” almost shouting through the kind of laugh that comes from having too much enthusiasm to hold back or react any other way.
It’s strange how sometimes I feel as if something will bring him back, or like he’s not really gone. I find things in my storage bins with his handwriting. I can sit there and read his words and hear his voice in my head, but I can’t see him and can’t talk to him. I’m scared that I’ll forget his voice or forget his laugh and I’m hopeful that if I try hard to replay the good memories they will erase the bad ones that are still so vivid in my mind that I can’t drive by a hospital without feeling woeful.
I sit wishing for signs that he’s with me and knows how I feel, but I don’t see any. I want to believe it though. I want to believe that he knows how amazing I know he was even though I didn’t tell him in the end because I wanted to respect that he didn’t want to talk about it being the end. But it was. It was the end of us being together in the only way we had known. The end of every dream he ever had that he didn’t get a chance to realize. The end of us watching each other grow up. He watching my brother and me, and us watching him.
Then I think of how unfair that is. That there are people – people not nearly as goodhearted as my dad – who wander around with little appreciation for what they have and without a smile on their face or a thought given to doing something for other people. My dad did so much for so many people that he barely did anything for himself. He singlehandedly raised my brother and me and always put us first. He gave us everything he could and the best thing was just him. He was the best thing that will ever happen to either of us. Everything good and strong and hopeful in us is because of watching the way he lived and learning what to value, what to strive for, and what’s most important.
I have tons of memories and still feel like I don’t remember enough. Many are memories of repeated behaviors. The way his eyes glazed over and sparkled when he would say how proud he was of me. How he and my brother could make each other laugh to the point of tears. How he was always building things in the garage, planting around the patio, reading the newspaper, or fishing then fishing some more. The childlike hearty giggle he’d let out when pointing out some senseless thing I said. The respectful way he addressed everyone. How he always called me “Kid.” How he was so unbelievably strong even through to the very end. The way he told me through tears to take care of my brother. How the last words we said to each other before he couldn’t say any more were, “I love you, Dad,” followed by “I love you, too,” said so assuredly like it was a fact that didn’t need to be said for me to always know it was true. And, most of all, the inspiring way he treated people, and how they reacted to it.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou