I know this blog is supposed to be about me and my journey and what I am doing here in Chicago but I really wanted to take a time out from that today to bring you something a little bit different. You see, today marks exactly seven years ago that my father passed away. So, I thought I would just take a second to remember the man who gave me life and with whom I share a last name (and so much more).
My dad and I did not have the greatest relationship. To be honest, he really wasn't much of a father to me or my brother and he was not a very good husband to our mother either. Yet, in his own way, he really tried to be the best father he could be to his children. He didn't really have an example to look up to in that respect as his own father was never there for him when he was growing up. His father basically spent all his time at work and left his mother to do the raising up of him. So, bearing that in mind, it becomes a little easier to understand why he was the kind of dad he was. We learn how to be parents by watching our parents raise us.
Growing up, I was always jealous of my friends who had parents that were active and involved in their lives and actually did things with their kids. My dad never wanted to play catch or go to the beach and swim or those "normal" father-son things. His idea of spending quality time with his kids was watching the Cowboys or Rangers game and maybe talking during commercials. I will say, in his defense however, that things got markedly better once he was divorced from my mom and only got to see me a couple weekends a month. Those weekends I spent at his apartment became all about me. We would play board games together and watch TV together and he would buy me lunch and make me dinner and basically treat me like I was the most important thing in the world. Do you have any idea how good that felt? Unfortunately, at the time, I really didn't appreciate it all that much. I was always mad that I had to go spend time with him because it meant I couldn't see my friends or have all my games and such with me. Plus, his apartments were never as nice and spacious as what I had with my mom so I was upset that I had to live like a poor person for the weekend. I realize this makes me sound like a horrible human being and that I should have been more grateful to be getting to spend time with my dad but honestly, I was in elementary and middle school so what can one expect??
When my dad first became sick, it wasn't that surprising. He had been smoking for over 40 years by that point so it was inevitable perhaps that it would happen. I resent cigarettes for taking my dad away from me. I hate that if I ever have children, that they will only know of their grandfather from the stories I share with them. I hate the fact that during the last years of his life, he was too weak to play board games with me or take me out to eat or do any of those father-son things that were uniquely his (to this day, every time I walk into Subway, I get a smile on my face because that was our place that we used to go for lunch). I don't like the fact that I had to become intimately familiar with the inner workings of hospitals and nursing homes in order to spend time with him. Those last few years of his life, I only saw him a few times because it was just too hard to see him like that. This once proud, mighty man that I had known for all my life was reduced to a shadow of his former self with tubes running all over his body and such. I prefer to remember him healthy although now it has been so long since he was that my memories of him healthy have really started to fade. He just continued to linger for years before finally passing on while I was home for Spring Break during my freshman year of college. At the time, I honestly remember feeling a sense of relief because he was finally out of pain and I would no longer have to make the trek to see him. His memorial service was sparsely attended but was quite powerful and moving and the eulogies delivered did a good job of conveying the spirit of this man who had passed on.
Last summer, my therapist recommended that for Father's Day that year, I write my dad a letter putting everything in it that I needed him to hear that I could never tell him when he was alive. She wanted me to include all the good and the bad, the positive and the negative. It proved to be a truly cathartic experience for me and helped get a lot of my issues with the man out in the open. I hate that I can no longer go to him for advice or talk to him about sports or classic TV shows. I know that he was proud of the person I was then and so I sincerely hope that he would be proud of the person I am now. What bothers me the most is that I will never actually know. Would he still be proud of me and the decisions I have made? Would he accept and love me for the person I have become? Would he agree with the decisions I have made about my life and the consequences that come with those choices? I will never know and that truly saddens me. This bothers me, I want to know. I need to know that he would have accepted and loved me no matter what. I guess I just have to trust that he believed (as does my mom) in the idea that parents love their children unconditionally. That they never give up on their kids and always accept them for who they are. I have to believe that about him because the alternative is just not how I want to think of my father. I choose to remember him as the loving, proud, strong, accepting father which is also how I choose to picture God. I guess now that I think about it, my dad influenced my entire concept of God. Quick to anger but also full of love for his children and pride in their accomplishments. One thing I can say about my dad is that in spite of his faults, he was always there whenever I had a soccer game or an orchestra concert or a play performance and usually he was in one of the front rows much like God. One of the last things he got to do before he died was attend my high school graduation. He was really weak by that point and couldn't really talk anymore but it really meant a lot to me that others made the effort to make sure he was there to see me walk across that stage and get my diploma something he himself had never achieved. Now, he continues to come to all my events even though I can no longer see him. I still feel his presence every time I walk onto a stage or sing in church or give a speech. I can feel his presence near me at those times and that's how I know he's there. Much like God.
I want to ask a favor of all those reading this, if you are lucky enough to still have your father in your life, I want you to just take a minute to first thank God for allowing you to still have that mighty and influential presence in your life. Then, I want you to call or text or Facebook or Skype your Dad right now and let them know how much you love them. Make sure they realize how grateful you are to have them in your life. Maybe even take them to lunch or dinner. Really make that effort because time is too short and life is too precious. Your parents, whether you like it or not, are the most influential and important people in your life and need to be treasured. Believe me, I would give anything to be able to call up my Dad right now and just talk to him on the phone even if we didn't talk about anything important. Even if the entirety of our conversation consisted of him rambling on about the Cowboys and how they are looking this year or how the Rangers are definitely going to win the World Series this year, I would still treasure it. Why? Because when I had those opportunities, I didn't. I realize now, too late unfortunately, that family comes first. Give your Dads a big hug for me next time you see them!!