Sunday, January 1, 2012

I'll remember you fondly

With the new year comes the overwhelming urge to end over two months of silence but the only way to do that is to write the words I've been trying to avoid for 2 months, 2 weeks, and 1 day:

My father passed away on October 17, 2011.

I still don't have the words to describe how I feel about the loss only that I miss him very much. One thing I do have to say is that somehow, even though the importance of a father cannot be measured, the loss of mine carries a much different feeling than any of the other losses I've experienced in recent years. The love and admiration I'd come to find in and have for my dad was astonishing, yet his death has not left me with a painful void in my chest every time I think of him. Instead, I have a soft place in my heart filled with fond memories and the feeling of being so blessed to have had as much time with him as I did.

My father's death could not have come as a surprise to any of us. He'd already survived three heart attacks, the first one being nearly 20 years ago, and even though he'd made great strides in improving his health in recent years, test results showed that much of the damage was already done and there was no turning around his own case of type 2 diabetes and congestive heart failure. He did what he could to make the best of it, finally started to treasure the time he had with us, and he didn't let anyone but my mom know just how much pain he was actually in.

What I do know is this: My dad lived a full life. He was married to the love of his life for 44 years with children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren. No hobby of his went unstudied. He had no shortage of friends who would do anything for him. There was nothing he could look back on in regret. That, to me, is a very full life.

So like I said, I miss my father. I miss our Wednesday Skype nights, the way he played the maracas with Owen, being able to call him for moral support every time I encounter (and have to kill) an ugly, scary bug, and his comforting presence in general, but I can't say that I am overwhelmed with grief by this loss.

I loved my father and he knew it. I can't say that I have any regrets there either.

I wrote a little something to read at his funeral, and surprisingly, I managed to do so without tearing up. In fact, I may have even laughed a little. I know he appreciated that. I thought I'd copy it here for safe keeping:

My dad liked to jokingly refer to his status in the family as 'the bottom of the barrel' or sometimes, if he was feeling particularly dramatic, he'd say he was 'the scum seeping out of a crack at the bottom of the barrel'. He said all of this with a big grin hiding behind his beard. He liked to pretend he was forgotten often but we all knew he was well aware of his importance in our family -- that we all revolved around him just as much as we do our mother -- all 6 children, 17 grand children, and 3 great grand children with another on the way. There is no denying your importance when you are the co-creator of a family this large and full of genuinely good people.

When it came to raising us my parents roles were easily defined: mom was always good cop and dad was always bad cop (unless you asked for something when dad was asleep, then he simply said 'go ask your mother' which was always a given yes!) Dad was typically the enforcer and he actually managed to do it quietly, at least until you either a) talked back to him, or b) disrespected our mother in anyway. I used to think it was our mother who was there to raise us and he was there simply to protect her from us. Now that I am older with a child of my own, I know better. My father, in his own way, was raising us to become kind and respectful adults.

Despite several heart attacks -- each one leaving him a little more bony and pale than the last -- my father grew much softer with age. He left behind his enforcer uniform to reveal a man you couldn't help but adore. He was passionate about his hobbies and eager to share them. His heart, though physically weaker, kept growing bigger with interest and love for his family. He was genuinely excited to see us and he was so openly proud of us all.

One of my strongest memories of my father is on the day of my wedding. I was so excited and nervous that I was nearly running down the aisle, dragging him behind me, when he suddenly chuckled, tightened his grip on my arm and said, "Slow down, Kate, enjoy this moment while it lasts."

I took his advice that day and continued to do so for years to come. I enjoyed every last moment I had with him.

Owen and Grandpa, June 2010

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