I just survived my second Father’s Day without you. I’m surviving your birthday today without you. And the second anniversary of losing you is coming up.
About a month after you passed, I went in for my twenty-second tattoo. And Martin, the person who’s inked all but two of my tattoos was more than happy to take a tattoo gun to my back to memorialize your birth and death dates. And for the first time in all the tattoos I’ve ever had placed on my body, for the first time ever in that shop that saw me get inked and pierced to commemorate the map of my life on my body, I cried. Martin, a man who doesn’t put up with whining over pain in his shop said nothing, just stopped every now and then to hand me a paper towel to wipe my eyes and blow my nose with. And when I stood up and looked at the new art on my body, I thanked him, and he put his hand on my shoulder in support.
The kids are doing well, but they miss you. And I never understood so well the lesson that you put your children first in all things, because when they ask me about you, I have to put my public face on and not cry and tell them about you. Because even though it hurts that you’re no longer with us, I need to keep you alive for them.
So much has happened since we lost you. And the morning we lost you, Jason and I went to your house to look over your papers. You always thought ahead: everything that could have been divided equally between us had already been divided, you gave us detailed instructions into carrying out your funeral, you prepaid for the expenses associated with laying you to rest, you even stated who you wanted to be the final judge in any disputes we might have had in closing your estate (you’ll be proud to know that not ONCE did we argue over anything, we simply moved forward how you would have wanted us to, although the people who bought your house painted over all that gorgeous blonde wood in the living room with white paint which is just wrong), you kept everything we might have needed in one place in order to finish out your affairs.
I looked over your financial papers, and my heart broke. You always taught us to be careful and cautious in our spending, to plan for the future. But when I saw what you weren’t able to take with you, my heart broke. You were a simple man: you never needed fan fare and always found joy in the simple things in life. But in your final week, I’d visit you in the hospital and we had some deep discussions before the pain became too much and the medicine took over your mind. And you would tell me what you wished you’d of seen or what you wished you’d of done. You talked about experiences you didn’t have.
You taught me so much by being my parent. You taught me a final lesson in the days after your passing. I spent the first thirty-seven years of my life putting experiences off thinking I’d have more time, thinking it could wait, thinking I’d be wasting money. Sitting at the dining room table with my younger brother, I looked over what you left behind and realized how much of life you missed out on because you had concerns over being able to provide for your family.
We lost you two years ago. My life has not been the same since. There’s a hurt that hasn’t healed, and won’t heal. But there has been a shift into learning to experience life, into learning to embrace experiences and to not be afraid of taking chances and going after experiences I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember. I went to the World Series in 2014, I celebrated your birthday last year at the MLB All Star Game. I’ve sucked it up and stopped being such a wuss about flying with the help of vodka. I drove Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. I went to Wrigley Field like you and I had always planned to go to. I’ve been to the Four Corners Monument and lost my breath and been moved to tears by the sheer phenomenal beauty of the Grand Canyon. I’ve pushed myself professionally and ran my company in the black for over three years now, and I’ve began doing work that I never thought I’d be capable of. I rode to the top of Sandia Peak. I almost rode a hot air balloon but a thunderstorm kept me grounded.
It took long work hours to save up to take these trips and have these experiences. And with all of those experiences, I’ve wished I could have called you to tell you about them. But I know you were there in spirit, cheering me on and telling me to not let fear keep me from going after what I wanted in this life. You always taught us hard work will get you where you want to go. And it has: hard work got me to Chicago, Albuquerque, Carlsbad, Las Vegas, Santa Monica, Baltimore, Murfreeboro. Some of those places people know of, some of the experiences are ones that many people have had. And some of those were just for me because they involved experiences or people that are dear to me.
It’s been almost two years. You’re still very present in my life, even though you’re gone. And I guess what I’m trying to say by all this rambling is that I miss you, I love you, and I wish more than anything we could have an hour to sit down and just talk. It hurts when the kids tell me how much they miss you, and I’ve learned to hide my hurt from them because I don’t want them to feel they’re doing something wrong in talking about you; I want your memory kept alive for them as long as possible.
Happy Birthday Dad. I wish there was another meatloaf/mashed potato “cupcake” to see you blow a candle out on.
Oh, Amber. I’m so sorry. But I’m also happy. Why? Because clearly your dad meant SO MUCH to you, and he taught you a lot. He’s left a lasting mark on your life and your children’s lives. This was just beautiful. My heart goes out to you. I’m sure he knew very well how much you loved him. 🙂