The end of November will mark one year since my dad passed unexpectedly.
It has been the first year of my life I didn’t have a dad ready at hand. Just a phone call away. Not that I called all the time. I am an independent person and have been my whole life (I am a Leo after all.) I have never been one to run and call my parents for help or advise when life gets rough or I need something.
It is a trait I know my dad held in high regard. By the time I was in my late teens my dad and I were pretty much on equal footing. He had given me the tools of introspection, self questioning and debate (something I am sure he regretted more than a few times during my teens.)
We had hashed out almost every parent/offspring issue that families have and had found a common respect and understanding. I had been working full time for years and for the most part, took care of my own expenses. I cooked dinner frequently and most of the time he was pleased to have me in the house. He had a high standard about what “pitching in” around the house means.
I never had the urge to leave my familiar home, it was a place of comfort and peace. I attended college locally and stayed till I was 22. When I moved in with my (then) boyfriend of seven years- after the loss of his mother.
I returned two years later when we broke up.
I was always able to pass large amounts of time with my dad. I accepted his eccentricities and stubborn ways.
He was never mean but he could be petulant.
If you didn’t indulge his Saturday morning mandate to watch “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” or “The Quite Man” for the umpteenth time he had the tendency to sulk or throw a mini ‘dad fit.’
“Well then, I will go watch it in my work room.”
He would work on some project or other. When the movie was over he would be back with a new activity suggestion. Unless you had “something productive” you were currently involved in, this new proposal should not be refused or the petulance would grow into a weekend devouring ‘mood.’
Often at the time these day altering activities were declared, they were posed as “just a quick jaunt.”
“There is this really cool diner a little drive from here, you have to check it out! Do you have time for lunch?”
You would not be getting back till dinner time (if you are lucky.) He would take every back road and stop at anything that even looked like a yard sale. If there was a surfboard visible anywhere on the property he was apt to knock on the door just to make sure it was not for sale.
Basically he had the unavoidable tendency to become a very well intentioned kidnapper. There are people reading this who know EXACTLY what I mean.
He was a wanderer and I was at peace to go with him. Giving up my day. Knowing that no matter what he said we were going to do, when that door closed any plans I thought I had for the rest of the day- were canceled.
Instead of spending my little free time hanging out with friends, I spent a large portion my days off in the passenger’s seat of my dad’s car. Going nowhere and talking about everything.
He was a f#cking encyclopedia, sometimes bordering on pedantic. During these car rides I could ask for, and receive, a full dissertation about anything. From how an internal combustion engine works; to a play by play of D-day. Staring from the “largest amphibious invasion in human history” on the beaches of Normandy and ending with exact figures of the losses taken by each faction of the battle.
(My sister and I used to request this particular lecture when we wanted him to be distracted while driving and playing “bug bug.”)
Or we could talk about whatever was going on in our lives, work, friends, etc. He was an open book and didn’t white wash much about himself; so I got to know my dad, as a peer early, in my adulthood.
I am not saying that this was entirely a good thing but it was an honest thing.
He was an honest thing, who never took himself too seriously for long.
He also never allowed me to even attempt that feat.
When I was seven, he got me through a ‘dolphin phase’ in about five minutes.
“Dad! Dolphins are so cool! Did you know they save people after shipwrecks!!! They tow them into shore and save them!!!! Aren’t dolphins sooooo awesome!?”
“Honey, that’s only because you never hear from the ones they tow out to sea.”
Dolphin phase over.
Since I moved away, the daily opportunity to hang out with my dad has not been possible for years. I knew that moving away from my family would leave this void; so there is a part of the loss that I accepted years ago.
There are many more that I am still getting used to. I have had to stop more than once in this post to correct the present, to the past tense.
Those, are the little pains you don’t expect. Like a rose with all the big thorns taken off leaving only the little ones. Things that still bite when you handle them carelessly.
Perspective is the beauty found in the pain of loss. It makes all those memories that much more important, because they are now the only ones I will ever have.
I am so grateful for all my memories with him, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Life without my dad has been hard but I have no regrets.
I think my youngest stepson said it best. When I told him my dad had died he said simply “but I wanted to see him again.”
I did too.
How was the first year of my life without my dad?
Well, it will have to do.