|Dad, Christmas 1995, laughing because he was in on the |
"Let's have fun with Tom during Yankee Swap" joke.
It's been over 5,479 days since I heard his voice, saw his animated, moving, three-dimensional face, or felt his arms around me in a bear hug.
The pain I feel has certainly lessened in these 15 years. I mean, I don't cry at the drop of a hat like I did the first couple of years, but milestones get me all choked up. My birthday, his birthday, Father's Day, you name it, I don't enjoy it. The births of my children, his grandchildren, were upsetting when I realized my father would never meet them. Any time the kids talk about "Paw-paw Tom" I get teary-eyed because they can only imagine what he was like and only have pictures to see him. It's my recollections and stories that give him substance.
At best, he's a two-dimensional figure they'll never get to fully understand.
What's worse for me, 15 years on, is that I've nearly forgotten the sound of my father's voice. If he were to suddenly reappear on this earthly plane and call out my name, I would have no idea who it could be trying to get my attention. I finally understand why people save the voice mail accounts of their loved ones. Even if it's just a couple of sentences, it's still a voice you want to hear over and over. That's why I may change my voice mail and instead of telling people to leave messages, I'll profess my undying love to each member of my family. Because knowing that these ears will never again hear my father cheer me on in life breaks my heart.
(And there I go. Crying. All over again. Like the 15 years just disappeared and he died five minutes ago. I swear, it never goes away, it's just that life gets in your face and makes you live.)
My dad was a sweet, caring, emotional, man. At the end of his life, he was a retired policeman, a 32nd-degree Mason, and veteran of the Korean War. He was kind to every person he met, very giving, quiet, and inquisitive. He was of average intelligence, not a great reader, and if you handed him a puzzle, he could solve it like nobody's business. He was a bit prescient in that he would suddenly look at you and pronounce, "I wonder how John Smith is doing? I haven't seen him in a while" and, within 24 hours, Dad would either see John Smith or see John Smith's obituary in the paper. Mom and I would get weirded out whenever this happened. Anytime he would start to ask a similar question, we would hit the deck. Which is probably why I called my parents so often while in college and after graduation. Didn't want my dad wondering what had happened to me!
My father loved science fiction and would always start conversations with, "Heather! Why do you think there are UFOs? Do you really think there's intelligent life out there? Because there's none here!" I could talk to him about almost anything and he was fond of ending our phone calls with the phrase, "May The Force be with you!" He loved dirty jokes and was convinced that "pro" wrestling was a high art form.
I have many wonderful memories of my father and I will cling to those today as I endeavor to remember him as best as my aging memory will allow. I will wear his Masonic ring, attempt to stomach some WWE, and maybe take a crack at that short story (Based on one of his out-there ideas - what if the Moon was a giant egg, laid by a huge galactic-sized bird, that hatched and the progeny proceeded to poo in our orbit? God bless the man.) he wanted me to write.
Love you, Dad! Miss you! And may The Force be with you, too!