My dad is no longer around for me to wish him a Happy Father’s Day, but I am thinking about him a lot today. Like most humans, he wasn’t perfect. He had his issues and his own challenges, but in many other ways, he was a great father. He was hard-working, he wasn’t afraid to hug or kiss his kids, and he genuinely was happy to have us around (as long as it wasn’t during his nap time on Sunday afternoons).
As he got older, he became a much better human. Many of the issues he had as a younger man were gone, replaced by even more awesome traits like expressing sheer joy at the sight of his grandchildren, making great meals and inviting us over many times a week, and wanting to spend as much time with me and my kids as possible.
It turns out that the time was well spent, as my dad passed away at the age of 63, only 5 years after I returned from active duty in the Marines. Those 5 years were filled with many dinners, weekends, and evenings talking, laughing, sometimes arguing, but the vast majority of the time, enjoying each others’ company. He especially loved his time with his grandchildren, and he never declined an opportunity to spend time with them (which was great for me when I started dating Sherry, as I needed a babysitter on Friday nights).
When my dad died, I immediately felt like I’d been cheated by life. I wasn’t yet ready to be a dad without my own dad to guide me with advice. It was selfish; I needed him. I no longer had someone that I could bounce ideas or questions off of without judgment or embarassment. I could talk to my dad about anything, and that was gone forever.
It’s been nearly 20 years that he’s been gone, and sometimes his absence affects me more than the presence of others. But he lives on in my memory, and in my heart, and I often think of him when I see a great new sci-fi movie or TV show, or when I’m in a store and see a beer he’d enjoy. There are times when I still want to phone him and share a joke (he loved jokes; the punnier, the better) or a meme. I don’t know if that’ll ever go away.
I remember talking to my grandmother about this, and when she was in her late 70’s, she told me that she never quite got over the loss of her own father, and how his absence in her life was still a hole that could not be filled. I get it. While I don’t feel distraught over his loss anymore, I still feel the absence. I don’t know if that’ll ever go away.
I tried to be the best dad I could to my kids as they were growing up. I tried my best to not emulate my dad’s shortcomings and to amplify his strong points. I never once denied picking up my kids when they asked to sit in my lap. I never shoo’d them away, or didn’t stop to take a moment to hug them, kiss them, or let them know that I loved them. I never missed a sporting or theater event. My dad taught me the importance of those things, and in that way, he lived on through me.
As I am now nearing the phase in my life where I’ll be a grandfather (fingers crossed that it won’t be too much longer), I look forward to living up to my dad’s example of being the amazing grandfather. My kids remember my dad for being a fun, loving, and cheerful guy who doted on them. I hope to do the same, and to live on in their hearts long after I’m gone, and hopefully, they’ll want to emulate the example I will give them, which in turn, ensures that my dad lives on in them, too.
Happy Father’s Day, Pops. I miss you.