It’s a common phrase to hear that a dad is generally every little girls first love and I suppose I’m not really an exception when it comes to that. My dad was my first best friend. He was the parent I went to with problems, questions, and honestly, whenever I wanted something, because being the baby in the family and the only girl out of five boys kind of gave me an edge. But more than that, it gave us a special bond.
Dads are important for a lot of reasons. We may find them annoying, weird, even embarrassing. There may be times when you completely despise them and think they’re ruining your life. But overall they are just trying to mold you into a decent human and trying to keep you alive so you can fully enjoy life.
My dad was someone I really admired. He’d done everything from being a Navy Chief to being a milk man, bus driver, and realtor. He stayed true to his beliefs, religious and political, but still kept an open mind and could have an in depth conversation with someone of opposing opinions. He also had the best sense of humor and is the reason I speak fluent sarcasm.
He was retired military so I was raised with strict rules, and strong values. He is the reason I have a very big soft spot for all military veterans, and senior citizens. He brought me up to be honest and strong and to fight for what is right. To stand up for the ones getting picked on and to be kind and smile or say hello to everyone that crosses your path. And above all he taught me to be respectful and answer with sir or mam.
He gave me the love of travel. He taught me how to drive at the age of 15 and then he took me on a trip across the USA and made me drive the majority of the way after I got my permit. He showed me how to be safe on all roads, whether they were covered in ice or dirt, and how to communicate with semi-trucks by simply using my lights. (Which they greatly appreciate people).
He’s the reason I have a strong work ethic and was a firm believer in teaching me the value of a dollar by making sure I did chores around the house every week. He also made sure I understood I was blessed and not to take much of anything for granted. He wanted me to know that there was a difference between a job and a career, and your career should be something you wake up excited to do every single day.
He is where I got my love for all world history, mainly cause he was there for most of it…(he was born in 1935) he was in the Vietnam and Korean War, and boy did he have some awesome stories that I really wish I’d had him write down or even record because I would give my heart to hear his voice one more time.
I could keep going on about the things he taught and did for me, but it would be a book. Yet, even with everything he taught me, nothing could have prepared me to sit on the sidelines and watch cancer slowly take over his body.
In no way am I intending this to be a depressing piece. I do however want it to be honest and upfront. I have sat down every year for the nearly 9 years since my dads passing and attempted to write this out for Father’s Day. I have not been able to muster the ability to write everything without completely losing control of my emotions and crying all over my computer keyboard.
But this year it’s different.
This was the first year I didn’t tear up when I realized Father’s Day was fast approaching. It’s been the first year that I actually haven’t experienced a deep pain just slightly under my heart when I think about him.
The emotions tied to this loss come in waves. There are days where thoughts of him make me smile and they bring on a warmth that assures me he’s right there with me, and there are days I have had to be held tight by the ones closest to me as I sob uncontrollably into their shoulder only able to say how much I miss him.
The pain of losing your parent is unimaginable. It’s something I would never wish upon a single human being. It will be your 10+ on the pain scale. There will never be another pain in my life like that. It guts you and breaks you into 1,000 little pieces that you have to eventually try and put back together, but it’s like finishing a puzzle that has one missing piece smack dab in the middle of the picture. It pisses you off and leaves you longing and searching for anything to try and fill that hole. But nothing ever does and as time moves on you start to look at the picture in a different way. You learn to live with that missing piece. I don’t know if it is something you actually heal from because it completely changes you and your life. You do, however, learn to go on living without and eventually the pain dissipates bit by bit, and each time you think of them it hurts just a little bit less. But it’s a very slow process.
For my situation, I knew my dad was dying. I watched cancer literally rip apart and eat away at my favorite person on this entire planet. And there was nothing I could do to fix it. One Sunday night I sat next to him, he’d slipped into coma the day before and I knew he was going. I also felt like he was still fighting and just didn’t want to let go. So I held his hand and thanked him for the beautiful life that he had given me. I told him how much I loved him and that he didn’t have to fight anymore, that he did everything he could and that I knew he loved me. I promised him that everything would be okay. That I would be okay. He died the next morning.
Death makes you appreciate what you have right in front of you and it makes you want to grab a hold of it, dig your nails in, and hang onto it for as long as you possibly can. Even when it’s sand slipping through your fingers. I had what I consider to be an advantage, knowing that I was going to lose my dad, so I was able to say all the things I wanted to say to him. I got to apologize for the shitty things I did as a teenager and tell him how thankful I was that of all the dads that could have adopted me that I got him. Not everyone will get that opportunity. There are unexpected accidents that happen all the time and some people never have the chance to say everything they truly mean.
So all I want for Father’s Day, is for you to give your dads a little extra love. Write them a note. Make him a card. Call them on the phone and get to know them a little better. Tell him you love him and share some deeper feelings with him. I got 20 amazing years with a terrific father, it was NO WHERE near enough. So hold them close and cherish literally every single second you get to spend with or talk to them. Put your phones away when you’re with them (unless you’re taking pictures, and seriously, take an obscenely annoying amount with him because when they’re gone you’ll feel as though you don’t have enough). Do things with them. Travel with them. Learn from them. Be kind to them. You only get one good one if you’re truly lucky in this world, and my dad and I don’t want you to waste that.
Thank you for everything daddy. I miss you, and I love you.
**ps I also realize that not everyone is as lucky as me. Unfortunately there are some rather crappy excuses for dads out there, if that is the case I hope you let your mom know she was a good dad too, or hopefully you have someone in your life that is a father figure to you as well, and you can share with them how great they’ve been for you.