Saturday, August 6, 2016

Two Years Later

8.6.16 – An Open Letter to My Father (that some of you might even relate to)

Dear Dad,

It’s been two years since you suddenly left this earth, Dad, and I don’t miss you any less than I did when it was all happening. One would think it would be easier by now—“time heals all wounds,” right? But as a couple of understanding people have reminded me, grief is not linear, it waxes and wanes. You always told me not to sweat the small stuff because it’s the big stuff that would kill me. I thought that this day two years ago was surely the big stuff, I’d finally seen it… Yet, now, thinking of it in your terms (thanks to your unique brand of ludicrous and yet wise perspective—often more crude than “stuff,” let’s be honest here), your death and the process of grief itself just might be more like decidedly varying waves of “small” shit; nearly constant, often unreasonable, hardly predictable.  

I did not anticipate ever speaking from the podium of our church and giving a relatively (stress on relative) composed speech to a crowded room given my limited at the time experience in public speaking; I definitely didn’t want it to be your eulogy, which I cried while writing but not while reading. I never realized that listening to Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen or Frank Sinatra’s Main Event: Live on crackly vinyl would most often bring me joy and an urge to dance but sometimes, at random, lead to a breakdown (complete with ugly crying, is there any other way, really?). I did not anticipate family gatherings, holidays, and milestones like moving into college or getting my first semester of straight As to feel like cataclysmic betrayal in two ways. Me the betrayer doing these things without you (or so it felt) and you too for not being there to congratulate me, interrogate me about it, and immediately pick up the phone to brag about it to anyone who would listen to you (though you would have insisted you were “just sharing good news” with people). You told me if I ever got a nose piercing (like I wanted) it’d have to be over your dead body and that you’d surely roll in your grave. When I did it last January, I think I secretly yearned for the rumble of the earth (though I don’t actually believe in that… and you were cremated, which would also pose a practical problem, I suppose) indicating your disapproval and thus that you still had an opinion—if I didn’t like the nose stud so much, it might’ve been a disappointing experience as such. Ah, yes, these are the haphazard waves of small shit I suppose.

Although I have faith that you are in a better place now, I still miss you and I don’t understand why you had to go and I still find myself regretting all the time we didn’t spend together, things I didn’t ask you, things we didn’t do, things we’ll never do. I don’t mean to, but sometimes I still agonize over it. I yelled at God about it, but I realized that it didn’t do me any good until it turned to crying to Him. Other torturous phenomena include the fact that it’s only been about half a year since the last time I picked up my phone to call and ask you a question and got to my recent calls before I remembered that I couldn’t. Admittedly, though it’s so weird and painful to say and think it, there are even things I’m sort of glad you didn’t have to be here to see (this year’s presidential election; the closing of El Famous in Vernon Hills—home of the football sized burritos which you showed me after I tried to show you ‘how great Chipotle is’).  All this too thrown into the seemingly endless current of small stuff.

But even among all the fleeting small stuff, I’m endlessly grateful that I got to spend 18 years of my life with you as my father. We disagreed and we bickered way too much, but I realize now that it doesn’t change a thing. Despite the nose piercing, my occasional penchants for rap music, and withstanding vegetarianism—all of which we vehemently disagreed about—I inherited many of my core values and ideologies from you (and you+mom, of course, but she knows this). You valued humor in nearly all situations, even occasionally risking the inappropriate for the sake of raucous laughter because, Lord knows, we all need it. You put family first, and you taught me that even without a blood relation, some friends are family and need to be treasured as such. You taught me to keep the faith in the worst of situations (don’t sweat that small stuff, eh?). You showed me the importance of helping anyone who needed it however you could, no matter how little you had or how hard it could be. I fail at all of this regularly, but I strive to hold on to these things and much more that you taught me. There are so many things that I wish you could have taught me or that we could at least talk about, but as I think about it—these are so major and among the most important after all (I guess I’ll have to forgive you for the never teaching me how to buy a car or writing down your spaghetti sauce recipe… bah!).

So here’s to you Dad, the greatest man I’ve ever known, two years since I last saw you. I thank God for you. I haven’t forgotten about you, at all, I think about you every day. I know Heaven’s great; I can’t wait to see you there some day.  Still, meanwhile, we miss you here on earth.

Love always,

circa 2011, holy smokes