Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Last Five Years

It’s been five years now since my Dad died. There are no words to describe the sudden and unexpected loss of a parent that you love. There has been nothing else in my life that I can compare to it. It’s been five years and time does heal wounds. However, some wounds leave scars that become a part of you for the rest of your life.

We’ve carried on in his absence the last five years and although he is no longer here, he is far from forgotten. It is often in the smallest moments of daily living that thoughts and memories of him flood my mind: the snippet of a song on the radio, the way someone I’m talking to says a particular phrase, a picture that provides a visual reminder to a moment past, a television show or movie where two characters share a relationship similar to ours, etc.

I’ve missed my Dad a lot this past year, probably more so than any other time outside of that first year without him. I’m not really sure why it is. For most intents and purposes, this year has been a relatively good year for me. Perhaps it’s because I miss sharing the good times with him. There have been so many bad times the past few years. I had a happy childhood growing up, but it wasn’t exactly easy and completely carefree. I grew up poor (hell, I’m still poor), but my Dad did all kinds of things to make life better for us; he showed us that even if you’re poor and struggling, you can still really live and not just exist and enjoy the simpler things that life offers.

Lately, I’ve been thinking back to a conversation I had with my Dad. At the time, I was getting ready to return to college full time to earn a teaching certificate. It was a choice I had struggled with for two years, but it was something that I felt I was supposed to do. I remember talking with Dad and asking him if he was disappointed. Until I started thinking about teaching, there had only been one thing in my life that I really wanted to do as a profession: acting. I never directly asked my Dad what he thought about that, but he came to almost every single show I was in and he did little things on the side to encourage my dream. He told me since I was in the fifth grade and started doing bigger parts for church and school that if I became an actor, the only thing he wanted from me when I was rich and famous was a house with an indoor swimming pool (actually, he wanted a swimming pool that was half inside/half outside, but he later told me an indoor pool would be ok).

Anyway, I remember asking him if he was disappointed in me. I thought that my change in plans and decision not to move out to California like I was originally supposed to do was something he was disappointed with. He looked at me and said, “What would I be disappointed about? If that’s what you want to do, then do it. Just do something you’ll be happy with. Don’t end up like me.” My Dad worked in a factory basically doing the same job for over 40 years. I don’t know exactly what all his struggles were, but I do know that my Dad took a lot of verbal abuse from people that he had no business taking. One of his close co-workers told me shortly after his funeral that, “I don’t know how your Dad did it. He took so much crap from some of those guys.” I knew it then, but I know it now in a greater way that Dad did it for us. His job was just a job, but what he really lived for was his family.

I learned so much from my father and not all of it necessarily good. For instance, I tend to be a quiet and reserved individual and don’t usually talk much until I get to know someone or feel comfortable. Although I’m not as bad about it, I picked that up from him. I talk much more than he ever did, but I still have some strong introverted tendencies. On the other hand, my Dad was a very generous individual. We never did have much money and he wasn’t one for words, but he was always buying little gifts to give to people or would write a small note to someone to encourage them.

The last five years I have lived without having my Dad around. There are times that I miss him so much. There are times I wish he was just around so I could stop by and share the rare happy news. There are times that I desperately wish he was around so I could ask his advice about a problem I am struggling with. Usually the advice he gave was sound, but sometimes it was horrible advice. Good or bad I wish he was still here so I could ask him. But he’s not. I’ve had to do without for the past five years and I’ll have to continue doing without until I die. As Andy says in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, I need to, “Get busy living or get busy dying.....there ain't nothing inbetween.”

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