I bought you flowers today, Dad. Red tulips. Yellow would have been more your style but red fit my mood and the spirit of the holiday season. 52,604 hours have gone by since your last breath. And I’m certain you would recognize very little of the life I’m living for big reasons and tiny nonsensical reasons.
I drink Kombucha now. A fermented tea that reminds me of the healthy foods you insisted I eat when I really just wanted Honey Nut Cheerios. I’m obsessive about my workouts just like you used to be when you’d pick us up for our Wednesday night dinners but you had to workout before we could eat. The floor next to my bed reminds me of your room…piles of books stacked on top of each other giving a better glimpse at the soul than the smile on the face.
Dad, I’m still fighting your demons for you…the ones you never conquered. No, not the drinking. That’s not my problem. I realize more each and every day that that was a disease and there was no mind over matter for you. Drinking ran contrary to many areas of your personality, other than the need and desire to be jolly amongst your friends. And when it seemed the friends were no longer nearby and your days grew quieter, the disease, the alcohol, became your only answer. It numbed your pain. It numbed stories that I’ll never know. It erased the bad decisions from the forefront of your mind and it clouded over the simple fact that you weren’t always present in your children’s lives.
You gave me another demon, Dad. Maybe demon is not the right word but I thought of it the other day when I was thinking about you and can’t seem to shake it out of my head. You gave me a curiosity, a yearning for more within the confines of having less. You handed me this mind that ceases to rest and constantly questions the simplest notions. A desire to probe every moment instead of simply accepting the joy. And, Dad, we’ve shared that with Alex. And sometimes I struggle to help someone whose soul maps my own.
But I’m learning, Dad, some things you never could or did. Maybe you didn’t have the chance to because when you were forty-four you were chasing jobs, money, and women in an ill-fated attempt to fill your soul. My aspirations are smaller therefore easily fulfilled. A smile during a silly scene in a movie, figuring out that Eva can share my shoes, finding a hyacinth in my leaf soaked yard. I’m learning that it’s the little things that chase the demons and quiet my mind.
We were in Vancouver this weekend, a city that apparently has distant relatives of ours or simply people sharing our daunting last name. We got lost while we were searching for a decent restaurant. Some of us, well all of us except for Justin, had a mini-breakdown. I was sad because the kids absorb my moods and my feelings and I wanted them to feel the exhilaration of exploring instead of the aggravated, tired, and nervous things that were welling up inside of me. And I remembered the days that you walked us through cities across this country. The accidental neighborhoods we found in the not so great areas of town. The miles you made us walk through Santa Fe for the best green chile stew in the world that we couldn’t even eat because it was way too spicy. I’m certain I greeted those “adventures” with the same spirit and grimace that show up on Gigi’s face as we traipse along on an outing that seems illogical or unnecessary to her little heart.
I worry about what they’ll think of me when I’m gone but time is kind to our memories and our understanding. I know now it was never that you didn’t love me enough. Instead, you were trying to piece together your own fragmented heart. I lost you after I graduated from college, got married, had my kids. You were there for the big stuff. You got to see the beginnings of what I was creating…but you never had that. Your parents died before you did any of that and now that I know and understand the pain of losing a parent, I suddenly understand you.
I took the kids to Moana yesterday. I was bored out of my mind because like you, I have a hard time sitting still unless I have a book. So I thought about what I wanted to write to remember you. How could I mark the two thousand one hundred and ninety two days since you’ve been gone? Just as I was organizing thoughts in my head, I got a text from the Notre Dame Advent calendar I signed up to receive. On Day 3 of the 28 Days of Peace during Advent time, today’s activity was titled “Gone, but not Forgotten.” And just like that you were there with me in the theatre, reminding me of your constant presence and nudging my heart. You’re still kind of directing me around this city of life except this time instead of not wearing your contacts as I navigate the roads, your field of vision is greater than mine. You’re helping me fight the “demons” and teaching me to simply be satisfied.
Thank you, Dad. You are gone and sixty-eight was way too soon to lose you, but you are not, nor will you ever be, forgotten.