It’s Memorial Day weekend and I have been thinking of you even more than I usually do, which is every single day anyway.
But this weekend, I want to thank you for your service in the Navy in World War II. You never talked about those days much, as other men do, but I have always been honored that I had a father who served. And I have always been thankful that you lived through it.
I wish you were here now. I wish that when I come to see you on Sunday, that it is not at the cemetery where you’re buried, but at your home, where I had the honor of living with you and Mom from 2008 to 2012, and helping you through your cancer treatments, mostly by doing the housework and yard work and laundry and other grunt duties, as you called them. I know that bothered you, as you shared with me in your last weeks with us—in your last days. I wish I could share everything that you shared with me before you spent your last days in the hospital and were not able to communicate anymore. I want you to know, I honored the commitment I made to you then, just as I will honor your commitment to the country, our family, and your life’s work this weekend and the rest of my life.
You were right, there is a price for our decisions, and you were right, that what you asked me to do for you would have a heavy cost attached to it. The fact that you felt that I had given enough, that I had given up enough, hurts me, because I can never repay you for what you have given me, the sacrifices you made for me, the encouragement you gave me.
We did not always see eye-to-eye throughout my life. You admitted that you were a hard man much of your life—one with high expectations of himself and of me—but in retrospect, as we spoke in those last hours of your ability to do so, and in the days and weeks prior, you did what was best for me. I would have given up so many times, and once did, but you dragged me kicking and screaming back into life.
And my life now is full, and yet empty. It is full of love for Mom, my wonderful husband, Jeff, my three daughters and grandchildren, my three step-children, my soon-to-be son-in-law, my sister, Kim, and her family, and my work. But you are not here. And to some, I am no longer a part of their family, of our family. So, in that, again, you were right. You said, “I’m asking you to be selfish. I’m telling you to put yourself first. Do this for me.”
And I did as you asked, Dad, but it is the hardest thing I have ever done. It has brought me joy, like you wanted, but it also has brought me unbearable pain. Unbearable, that is, were it not for Mom, my husband, and children.
But that is life. Like our life together—we fought hard, we worked hard together, we laughed uproariously, we wrote together, we did a lot of crying together, and we apologized to each other a lot…
I miss you, Dad. I wish you were here so we could work in the garden, so you could yell at me for hauling rocks for the front yard, so you could explain passive sentences and adverbs and adjectives to me like you did when I was little, so we could watch PBS Masterpiece with Mom, and all those horror and action movies Mom hated, so you could teach me to drive again, and then continue to do so For. The. Rest. Of. My. Life. (Stay 10 lengths from the car in front of you. Turn your signal on 50 yards before your turn. Why don’t you use two feet when you drive. Stop driving with one hand. Okay, you can back out now—no wait! Okay, go now. Why are you taking this route? Get in the right lane, no, the other right lane!)
I wish I could argue with you again, could storm away, and then come back and cry in your lap while you cried and stroked my hair.
I wish I could make you laugh again with my horrid impressions, and my commentary on movies, and my smart-mouthed retorts to something you said to me (that once would have mad you angry, but later made you laugh).
I wish, I wish, I wish…
So here’s to you, Dad. With the Father, look down upon me, bless me, and give me strength.
Thank you for every single thing, on this weekend, and every day of my life.