I'd like to remember my own dad here, briefly. I think of him every day, but Father's Day always hurts a little more. My father passed away in March, 2008, after finding out he had throat cancer only six months earlier. He was only 53. My dad was my best friend growing up, and broke all parent-child conventions. He let me make my own decisions (such as they were, as a kid), and didn't lecture. He spoke to me as a real person, gave me good advice, and earned my trust and assurance that he'd always be there to talk to, whether about every day worries, contemplating the universe, or everyday stuff.
What I loved best about my dad is how intelligent he was, without being an intellectual snob, and his absurd, yet sometimes black, sense of humor. My dad could make friends with anyone. And he would be their truest, most reliable friend. He would go to the ends of the earth for anyone, stand up to their bullies, and never treat any act of kindness as a debt owed to him. When I came to him when my friend confided in me that their family member had been getting drunk and touching them inappropriately, my dad invited them to stay overnight, spoke to them in the most calm, comforting way until they opened up, and took them to the police station to make a statement. Then, they stayed with us for weeks until they could move permanently to another family member's home. My dad was a hero to them, and even more so to me.
My dad was my favorite person in the world, and is the biggest inspiration to who I am today. I feel a lot of regrets, when it comes to our relationship. My mom moved with her fiance to Hawaii in 2000, and begged me to come and at least visit for a year. I did in 2001, when I was 15. In April 2002, my husband moved into my mom's boarding house, and we ended up falling in love in July. I decided to stay in Hawaii, because I was in love. My dad understood, and spoke of how I was grown up enough to decide where I lived.
The years went by, and I was happy. I feel guilty about not even visiting my dad, but my parents were both poor, and couldn't really afford to pay for a roundtrip ticket from Florida to Hawaii. December 2007, and my dad called me at Christmas. He complained of a swollen throat, a little pain, but he didn't think it was serious. I didn't speak to him again until February 2008, which was quite a long time. He had avoided telling me for as long as he could that he'd finally went to a doctor, and found out his sore throat was actually an advanced cancer. He was undergoing treatments, and he was hopeful that he was improving, but he wanted me to come and visit after so long. But, he demanded I wait until spring break (I was a full-time student, working two college jobs), because he wasn't worried and would not have me mess up my grades and jobs over a little visit. He told me he had bought me a ticket for March 22nd, and I excitedly packed for it right after getting home on Friday, the 21st. I woke up early the next morning, and packed my car for my boyfriend to drive me to the airport. As we were about to leave, my phone rang. It was my aunt, and she asked me to sit down, she had some really hard news to tell me. I'll never forget her words, her tone, and the feeling of my stomach instantly turning to a solid block of ice. Tears were in my eyes before she even finished saying 'Your dad passed in his sleep last night'.
When you get bad news, really bad news, its like you know before it even hits you. Then it hits you, like a semitruck full of concrete. Just writing this, I feel it all over again - my stomach is tense, I can't breathe deep without a physical pain, and all my thoughts just stop on 'he's gone, he's gone, he's gone'. I feel so much guilt for my dad passing away on his own, because I wasn't there with him, because he didn't want to tell me how bad he really was, how determined he was that his health not ruin my stupid classes, and just what a terrible daughter I was to not even see him for seven years, to just leave him to die alone. As anyone can tell, I've not moved on the grieving process on my dad's death. Its real and unreal all at once, even years later I still think 'he's in Florida', I wait for a letter from him, I sometimes pick up the phone to dial his number before my brain stops my fingers and says 'he's dead'. The sudden death of a loved one is a trauma in every sense of the word. Its painful, its jarring, it knocks your mental and physical wellbeing out of whack.
I don't want to end my post on such a down note. When I said I think of my dad every day, its not in a weeping, screaming fit. I think of all the good times we had. My dad singing Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue" (reason I linked that video last time) along to the radio in his big black, leather seats pride-and-joy 1970 Cadillac. The awesome sandcastles we'd build on the beach. The Halloween he dressed as Gomez, and I was Wednesday, from the Addams family. Playing 'Walkin' After Midnight' on his huuuuge piano when I was three or four. Him encouraging me to read, going to the library together, and bringing half the books home. I just want to be as good a friend and parent as he was to me.