I miss you. You’ve been gone from this world for eleven years, and I still miss you multiple times a day. That longing, the grief over losing a parent, is part of me. Like an extra layer I wear under my regular clothes, covering up my heart.
When I remember you, I want the memories to be complicated. I don’t know if that makes sense or not. You were complicated, with lots of things I would have changed about you if I could (especially in the last few years). Yet, I loved you fiercely. The instant I heard your voice,”Hi baby girl,” a part of me was five-years-old again.
Please know I share stories about you with our daughter. Probably not enough, but I do. I mentioned to her just the other day that your favorite candy bar was a Baby Ruth. She knows you preferred Pizza Hut pizza, hamburger only on a thin crust. In an effort to make sure she gets a full picture of who you were, I share some of the harder stories too. I recently told her about the time I remember you giving me a driving lesson. You’d been drinking beer and out of nowhere, you said, “Let’s go practice your driving.” I was excited (also maybe a little naive), and so we did. At the time we had this big boat-of-a-car, and I managed to back it out of the driveway. We lived on a gravel road, so there wasn’t much concern for a lot of traffic. I started going down our road, and veered off to the left a bit too much. Isn’t it interesting how time slows down when you are about to crash? I remember trying to turn the steering wheel in those last few seconds, while you laughed and told me to straighten it out. Too late, because I put the front fender into the ditch by the small, wooden bridge leading to our mailbox. I had barely accelerated yet, so no harm was done. After that, Mom took over the driving lessons.
I guess we’ll continue like this, me telling our little girl bits and pieces about the grandpa she never met. Every time I turn on my George Jones playlist, I mention the particular songs you liked. I’m careful to let her know even though I have a fondness for the music of Johnny Cash, you didn’t care for him. When we get our binoculars out to identify a bird on the feeder, I recall my memories of you going off by yourself in your ratty old truck, down the two-track that led to our back fields, so you could watch for wildlife through your own set of binoculars. I tell her all these things.
You’ll never know this life I have now, but I think you’d be proud of it. I carry a lot of you with me, and it’s like I have this sense of knowing when a part of our life would make you happy. I can almost see your smile off in the distance sometimes.
Father’s Day has come around again. I wish I was one of those people who didn’t pay any attention to these lesser holidays. It’s just another day, right? But instead, even when I plan other things and swear off celebrating, it leaves me all reflective. Blech!
So this year, I’ve given into it. I wrote you this letter to let you know you’re never forgotten. Our family still tells your story. All of it.