You may not know this but leading up to your passing, I was struggling with talking to God. I struggled, not just because I knew you wouldn’t be with us much longer, but because my own relationship with God had deteriorated so much over the years.
I felt guilty and out-of-place in having those conversations with a higher power and prayer, in general, felt empty and hollow.
In the days/weeks after you passed, I couldn’t speak to God at all. I could only speak to you.
I spoke to you as if you were the only higher power that I knew, because in many ways you were…not just to me, but to Mom as well.
Dad, while you existed in this material world, you were my true north, and if I ever had a compass for right from wrong (frequently I did not, as evidenced by much of my behavior) everything came back to you…What would Dad do? What would Dad say?
I have spent the better part of the last ten years since you passed oscillating between the areas and places of my life where I so desperately wanted you to see the good I was doing and on the opposite end praying (there’s that word again) that you couldn’t see what I was up to because disappointing you was always one of my biggest regrets.
There are days when family and friends, and even Mom will say: “You’re just like your father” and there is no higher compliment. You were the pinnacle of any personal achievement I could accomplish, such was the standard you held in our lives.
I look at Jackson, the only grandchild you had the joy of experiencing and he exhibits expressions and conveys emotions that remind Mom and myself of you. That you left this world when he was only three means that his memories of you will be minimal at best. That is a great tragedy of Jackson’s life…not having more of his Opa.
Then, of course, there is Sebastian, the grandchild you never met and the one who I think you would marvel at his energy, his enthusiasm and his vocabulary. I think of all the things you could have taught him…
Dad, nearly every good and right thing in this world inspires me to want to call you and share it with you. I haven’t dialed your numbers in ten years but I still have your cell phone number and office number memorized, as well as saved in my phone.
And, of course, when things have a tendency to go wrong and I need your advice, I still have to stop myself from calling you, too.
We’ve just returned from another trip to Tennessee, one where we celebrate the birthday of “Gram”, (my maternal grandmother) and where we make the drive out to the cemetery to pay our respects to you. This particular trip was unique because it was Sebastian’s first trip down to see where his Opa is, as well.
It’s difficult to explain death to a three year old, Dad. Sebastian recently lost his “Booma”, Marissa’s grandmother, and while he can tell you that she’s in heaven, he still thinks she’s coming back at some point. Marissa is trying to explain to him that Booma and Opa are in the same place, neither of whom will be returning to see us.
It’s difficult for me to explain my own moodiness that falls around these events too. Each occasion: holiday, anniversary, birthday, etc. carries that general cloud of you not being here and there is the part of me that feels guilty for keeping that cloud with me and the part that feels determined to keep you by my side, ever my true north, whether you’re in this physical world or not.
Dad, so much has happened in the ten years since cancer took you. I wish I could say with pride that every lesson you taught me took but, even in death, I can’t lie to you. Rather, I can’t lie to you and expect you to believe it. I have always been a painfully slow learner when it comes to lessons you tried to instill. For every positive influence you left, I feel my own tendency to drift from those lessons were the skeletons I couldn’t shake from my closet.
This is what I know to be true: you would have been so happy about RevFit. I can’t even begin to explain to you how that business has changed since you passed. Mostly all for the better, but some changes that had to be made were difficult indeed. I would imagine every small business owner can relate.
You would have been so thrilled about your grandsons. Jackson and Sebastian would have given you more joy than I think you would know what to do with. I still like to imagine conversations you and Mom would have about the way those boys are in relation to what it was like for me growing up.
You would have continued to teach me more about being a husband and a father. The fact of the matter is: I learned from the best, I just didn’t practice every lesson you taught me. I’m working on that. You have no idea what it’s like to try to stand in your shadow. Some days, failing to do so seems far easier than to try and catch up to you. Such is the standard you held in my mind.
Dad, even after these years have passed, I still sometimes expect to see your face and hear your voice. The disappointment of having neither bothers me more than it should because, as my therapist was kind to remind me, I probably never grieved losing you in the right ways.
I am also, slowly, learning that perhaps trying to be more like you is not the correct path for me. Not because you weren’t worthy of it, quite the contrary, but because I think the safer, more advisable road is the one where you taught me to be the best version of me…not just a carbon copy of you (like I said, I’m a slow learner).
What’s funny is…you were trying to teach me that in the last year or two of your life, in somewhat mysterious ways. That conversation came about because of conversations we shared on God. That maybe, the life we live isn’t meant to be defined by how we can be more like someone else…but how we are living to the best of our own abilities, in God’s eyes.
Maybe someday, I’ll take that conversation back to God. As for now, it’s still easier to talk to you, even when prayer is infrequent.
And then, I look in my son’s eyes and think, for all the times I’ve fallen short of what you hoped I’d be, maybe I’m not doing as bad as I thought.
Ever my true north, I love you Dad. We miss you.