“Sometimes sadness feels happy. Sometimes sadness keeps my head. Sometimes it helps me get by.” Bouncing Souls
I was putting my son to bed last night, when he paused from reading his book A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle, and asked me to count his money in his wallet. Having just had a birthday a couple of weeks ago, my son was proud of his bounty.
He reached over on his nightstand and brought up my dad’s old brown leather billfold my mom had given him not long ago on a trip home to visit. I remember my dad’s wallet well — the too full block that etched a hole in the bottom left corner of his back pocket, stuffed with cards and to-do notes he had written himself during his life.
“Look what I found,” my son said to me, unfolding a small green slip of paper. On it, it read:
“I miss my dad,” I said to my son.
“I do, too,” he said. “I wish I could have met him.”
“I wish you could have too. I think you two would have had a lot of fun together. He would have loved to have thrown the ball with you in the backyard and taken you fishing.”
I don’t talk a lot about my dad to my kids, but I do from time to time when the moment is right. I tell them stories of how he once jumped out of an airplane, owned an actual race car, a video arcade, how he could put you in tears laughing telling a story — not simply because of the subject matter, but how cracked up he would get telling it. How much he loved being outdoors.
“Shedding off the weight,” he told me proudly a few months before his diagnosis, touching his once formidable ice-cream belly.
“Nice,” I said. “How’d you manage that?”
“Just started walking every day and it’s coming off like never before.”
Only the reason why, he’d come to learn, wasn’t because of the walking.
I tell my kids my dad was far deeper than most people may have ever realized. There was poetry under the surface.
“He once covered the floor in rose petals,” my mom once said just before Valentine’s Day.
“Daddy did?” I asked in question.
We used to talk a lot, me and him, at night after my mom had fallen asleep on the couch. No subject was off limits. I miss those conversations. Sometimes I pretend he is still physically here with me and we talk into the night while everyone else is fast asleep in bed.
It’ll be ten years this coming May 21 since my dad left this world. I still miss him every day. I see him in me. I see him in my kids. I see him in my own handwriting and hear him in my own laughter. Whenever I see a canoe strapped onto a car headed for the wilderness, I think of our time on the Staunton River, getting caught in a bad electrical storm, paddling for our lives to the shore, and once on the bank into the woods, where we held the canoe over us to prevent being soaked even more by the cold, hard rain as the lightning bolted from the heavens above and the thunder deafened our ears on the earth below.
The pain isn’t there like it once was. I’ve worked through my emotions and grief over the years, confronted his death, and do my best to remember his life and the person that I knew him as — a person I’m not sure everyone knew or saw in the same way as I was fortunate to have experienced, as his son.
I know we all have our own unique perspective of those we’ve lost. And, I’m glad we each have our own stories and memories to share. These are mine. What are yours? Tell them. Your loved ones are never really dead.
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