Today is August 15th. My father passed away from lung cancer, on this day in 2003. In some ways it doesn't seem possible that so much time has passed, and in others, it seems like that was another lifetime. Veiled now, by memory and time.
Let me tell you a little bit about him. Dad was a quiet guy, mostly. Not overly talkative or expressive, for the most part. Six foot two and handsome. As if Robert Mitchum and Elvis conceived a child. He gave amazing hugs, provided unwaiveringly for his family, and was devoted to my mother; his sweetheart since they were eight years old. Wouldn't anyone want that kind of love story? I love that about them.
Dad was a draftsman. First working for Studebaker in Indiana, and then Chrysler here in Michigan, until his retirement. He drew blueprints and designed cars. He had that crazy awesome, precision handwriting they learn to do. I have papers I saved, that were his....just because they have his handwriting on them. My favorite possession I have of his, is his hairbrush. I asked my mother for it when he died. Nobody really knows this, but even all these years later, I take it out of the box sometimes, and touch the aged gray hairs, still entangled...still here on this earth, when the rest of him is less tangible now... and smell the bristles because it takes me back to him.
It still smells like him.
Dad called me "Bum" when I was little. Every evening, when he came home from work, I'd run to him and he'd lift me up into his strong arms, kiss me on the cheek and say "Hi Bum". It was always the best part of my day.
Dad wore big, heavy, black wingtips and never tied the laces. He had rough elbows and the whitest legs you have ever seen. He had smiling blue eyes, and made "cases" for practically everything that he felt needed one, by folding cardboard or heavy paper into boxes sealed with masking tape. Rulers, magnifying glasses. Always better in a handmade case. If you wanted to drive him crazy, fold a map incorrectly, or unplug the lamp by his chair to use your blowdryer - and then forget to plug it back in. When he was angry with any of us girls, he called us "Sis". We knew we were in big trouble then.
Dad loved nature and quiet, simple things. I get that from him. He also loved babies and puppies.
And Star Trek.
He loved us.
These are the things I know.
There are also so many things I didn't know. I can't say that my father and I were close, in the way that most people would define it. Heart to heart talks were not in his nature, and I sometimes found a deeper connection difficult, for reasons borne entirely of my own shortcomings. Today, I'm thinking about those things again...as I do sometimes. What would I ask him today, if given the chance? Maybe some of these things:
What made you fall in love with mom? Was there a moment you knew she was the one?
What were your horses names and who was your favorite?
Do you have any regrets?
What did you like about me in ways that were differen't from my sisters?
Were you ever sorry I came along so late in life?
Who ever taught you to eat onions whole, like an apple? Gross.
Did you feel differen't from other kids because your mom was blind? Did it ever make you feel extra protective of her?
What was your favorite color? Or book?
Why have I never heard you sing?
Were you scared when you knew you were going to die? Because I was. I was terrified.
And never told you.
I never told you a lot of things. I shut down. My mind wouldn't let me go to that place and I ran. I'm sorry I didn't call you more.
I told you later, at your grave... and I knew you heard me. And understood.
Today is August 15th and I will never forget the blur of that hot day eight years ago. You, in and out of conciousness, but coherent enough to tell me you liked my kisses on your forehead. The palpable abject fear in the room, knowing that all of our lives were about to change forever. Each of us grasping for something to steady us. Mostly each other. Mom trying desperately to hide from all of us, that she wasn't sure she'd survive without you. We weren't sure either. The moment your heart stopped while I held your beautiful hand.
I'm glad it was me.
I miss you today.
And, every day, I love you...