Wish You Were Here……

A rambling sort of letter to my dad…….

3,650 days…….ten years…….that’s how long it’s been since you were last here. You slipped away when everyone left the room for a bit. Not surprising…you were always quiet and to yourself. 

Every year I make my social media “I miss you” anniversary declaration, with the same rotation of pics.  I have come to be so torn with these pics. I’m forever grateful to have them. But I’m guilty of sometimes (especially lately) resenting that I don’t have any new ones to post. 

I dream about you this time of year, every year. You showed up as usual. I relive the last couple of weeks of your life and every year it’s a different emotion that comes with it.

I try to ignore it, just like I try to ignore the loneliness of being single during the holidays. But, it doesn’t matter what I “try” to do to avoid the reminders, they show up anyway.  Thankfully (very thankfully), the good reminders have mostly outweighed the bad.  Thankfully, my bitterness at my old job’s leadership, that made me come back to work and miss your final hours, changed to learning to be present for what’s important and set boundaries in my further career.  Thankfully, I rarely have flashbacks to your face when we had to have the convo that you weren’t going back home.  Thankfully, the image of sitting with mom and the sisters, in that tiny/stale family room, making the decision to “turn everything off”, rarely torments me as much as it used to.  Thankfully, when the image of your casket and the funeral pop in my head, I am able to quickly pivot to joy for how many people flooded that gym and what an incredible testament it was, to how loved you were by so many.  

People expect you to be fine. Some don’t understand how a simple tv show or tiny memory can completely wreck you. By most standards, 3,650 days should be plenty of time to deal with and process that. Sometimes I fall into the trap of worrying what people think and hesitate to share because I worry their reaction will be the “oh, he died 10 years ago…you shouldn’t be upset anymore” type face.  

I try to celebrate you and your memory in happy ways.  I eat your favorite cake (with that stupid pat of butter) or a ham sandwich (sorry, not doing the peanut butter and milk thing) on your birthday and death anniversary.  I share your shooting survival story with as many that will listen, feeling like I’m somehow keeping your memory truly alive.  

But none of that really soothes my heart (for very long anyway). Sure, it looks like I deal with it better. But I’m really just numb. And the numbness can be pierced in a hot second, if I hear your voice in a video, or catch a smell of your old cologne.  

So much has changed in ten years.  Yet so much hasn’t.  

I take a million pictures these days (you would love technology these days).  It’s quite possibly one of the top three things about me that gets on my family and friend’s nerves.  But, there is no way for me to accurately articulate the physical emphasis my heart has for wanting to capture every single thing…..because I know all to well that one day, those will be all I have to remember and connect with.  

I’m still mouthy :), not that you would be the least bit surprised.  However, I’m starting to see more and more how sometimes not saying much is a much better option or statement (and saves me more energy and trouble in the long run).  The quiet and pause you exercised actually rubbed off on me more than you think….it just took about 30+ years to stick 🙂 

I think you would be proud of how hard I have worked and what I have accomplished.  But I know you would still think that I don’t call or go home enough.  

You would love the littles that have infiltrated our lives.  You would’ve been the cool gramps, like your dad was.  It’s been so neat to watch mom become a grandma (I don’t even recognize her in that role, letting them get away with EVERYTHING lol) and I’m sad you didn’t get the chance.  

You would make jokes about me not being able to have kids, because the world couldn’t handle another me.  But I also know that you would side hug me and that would be your way of letting me know that “it’s ok to hurt”.  You might even leave me a little note reminding me that there are more ways than one to be a parent and how much you loved me, even though I “wasn’t originally yours”.  

I know if people believe in angels and after-life and all that, that they probably also assume you get to do way more important things than be proud when I add numbers in my head quickly and still don’t hardly ever need a calculator……but I refuse to believe that you aren’t proud of that!  I even still like to do my taxes by hand, like you taught me (but don’t get too excited, I want my refund just as fast as anyone, so I e-file – SORRY).

I use more of your phrases, more often, than I ever thought I would.  People who know me well, know that if they come to me with a problem, I’m probably going to say “What’s the common denominator? You gotta look at yourself first”.  Most also know I have inherited your level of toughness.  I’m probably most proud of that.  There are times that I have to truly practice not saying out loud “Well, until you’ve been shot and handcuffed to a dead man in the trunk of a car and lived to tell about it, nothing in your life is really that bad”.  You would definitely think that society as a whole has become way too soft.  And I would gladly sit on the front porch griping about it with you!

Your 48Hours episode gives me a great conversation piece.  From the ol’ Astro van, to my hick accent, it gives us plenty to make fun of.  But I don’t know if hearing your voice on there will ever not pierce my heart and stop me dead in my tracks.  I miss that the most, your voice.  I am not even ashamed to admit that I play out conversations with you in my head all the time.  I imagine what you would say if I called to tell you about work happenings or the latest silly situation I got myself into.  I imagine how incredible our relationship now would be, since I finally “get it” and am a real adult.  I’m pretty certain we would be best friends. I am more like you than I would’ve ever thought possible. 

I blame you (and pop Horn) for me STILL being single :p.  You two did such a good job at being the best men and taking care of me, that I guess after my divorce, I didn’t really see the need to add a man to my life.  Then you both went away.  I definitely try the tough act of “I don’t need a man” (and thankfully after A LOT of crap and work, I really don’t)……..but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t often wish for one to come along that had the characteristics of the great that you two were!  

There are so many people in my life that I wish you could meet.  And there are some that you would have no issue in telling me that “you should’ve gotten rid of them a long time ago”.  People is probably the only category I fight being like you.  It’s strange.  You had friends, of course.  But you also were fine alone and didn’t have to be with people all the time or to talk everyday to consider yourself loyal/friend, etc.  You also noted who kept up with you or reached out and you were very aware of other’s actions in relationship with you.  You never made too much of a fuss, but you would just quietly let them go away.  As much as I love and thrive off of being around people, I find myself more and more like you in being alone too.  And. It. Feels. So. Weird.  I butt heads with it regularly and experience seasons where I am bitter that I feel like I’m doing all the work and seasons where I’m not.  I even get frustrated, that I’m frustrated, because if I was really that much like you, I wouldn’t have cared either way and even in typing this, I can hear you saying “oh just hush, Alicia.  You always over think and over rattle about things”.  

It seems silly to even write this at all.  You’re not here to read or talk to me about these things.  I’m fairly certain the inter webs have no interest in my rambling about it all, either.  It’s just a self-serving post to get my feelings out of my heart in an effort to release, if I’m facing honesty.  It doesn’t capture telling the world how great you really were (like I started out intending to do for this anniversary).  And if it did……or if you could read it…….you wouldn’t be interested in the attention anyway.  

But, whether you would’ve liked it or not………..that’s what we do these days.  We post all of ourselves (or some of us do) on the inter webs and hope that someone out there……just one person “gets” what we were going for.  

You were great.  You were so great, that you left a hole so big, that even the time of ten years hasn’t healed it.  Thank you for the quiet and fierce love you gave, that I still feel.  I wish you were here.  

P.S. if you’re interested in the 48Hours episode or an overview of his survival story, you can watch that here (our story starts at 16minutes in).

I’m cooler than you on Father’s Day…..

(I’ll get back to funny soon – there are some GREAT dating stories in store)
I am cooler!  And I’ll tell you why in just a sec (and it’s not just because of how cute I was as a baby – look at that face!).  First, I have to say Happy Father’s day to all the dads, moms who play dad, men who stand in the gap, and to the men who chose to be dads when they didn’t have to be!!  Your role is more important than ever…..and I’m lucky to have had the best and know some of the best!  I am also lucky to have some pretty great faux dads that have taken me in as their own (especially the latest guy – my mom’s fiance, who has done nothing short of making sure my mom and me and my sisters are taken care of!! Love you, Joel!)
I’ve never been able to sit still and find a way to write all the encompasses my dad.  Or, I should say that I’ve never felt like I could do it justice.  He really deserves a book.  I’m not just saying that as a proud daughter, who thinks her dad was the greatest.  I mean, he really deserves a book.  He is the survivor of a terrible incident (as in survivor out of 9 people that these monsters killed – while being handcuffed to a dead guy and stuffed in the trunk of a car – where he was trapped fro 6 hours in June, in Arkansas…..sooooo yeah, that’s a story worth telling).  A book is on my bucket list to complete, but for now, I blame life in general and a ridiculous amount of fear for not having done it yet.
Although the above tid bit is enough to put him leaps and bounds ahead on the list of great guys, that’s not why makes me cooler than you on Father’s Day.  I could argue that these throw back pics included should definitely put me at the top of cool, but that’s not it either.
You see, what makes me just a TINY bit cooler than you today (unless you’re my friend Aaron, I’m not as cool as him) is that I get this day as a reminder that I was chosen.  I’m gonna take it up a notch and even say that I was hand picked.  My dad came along after I was already born.  I was part of the package of loving my mom and I was VERY young when he showed up.  Thankfully, too young to know that the “real” one had basically abandoned his opportunity to raise this legend!  And thankfully, too young to have that pre-established hesitation for someone coming into the picture (even though the above shows me less than happy, in general. haha).
I’m more than proof that DNA isn’t the sole factor of making a child.  My dad chose me.  I think that’s what has always made me a little cool 🙂  He didn’t have to be my dad, but he made the conscious decision to.  And he did so, fiercely.  There was never a difference.  Not one time.  If anything, he was harder on me.  I am more like him than I would’ve ever thought possible – and I’m ok with that 🙂  (even the stubborn).  He and my pop were two of the most important men in my life and I will never be the same without them – but I’m proud to be who I am because of their influence!
Some guys don’t get to choose.  Some are told they are going to be a dad and enter into the role out of obligation.  Some know they want to be a dad and follow the process of “first comes love, then comes marriage……”.  Any way that you become a dad and step up to the role is great.  I in no way want to disregard that. I just simply want to recognize that  (and am a little partial to this method) my dad chose me.  To make a deliberate choice to fill a role, an often thankless role and to fill the role with your whole heart – THAT makes you one heck of a guy!
One of my favorite stories is told by my aunt, after my dad passed.  She tells about the first day my dad had duty alone with me.  She says that he came to my grandma’s with me in tow, in matching denim overalls.  She goes on to always make sure I know that on that day, she had never seen my dad look more proud.  She talks about how he entered the house, carrying me, and was beaming.  My dad had been through a lot by then.  He had a lot of reasons to not be a happy person.  And, if you knew him, you knew that he definitely had his grumpy and closed off side.  A side I fought him on through much of my teenage years (because of course I was dramatic and wanted to always talk about my feelings lol – oh his eye rolls will forever be stuck in my head).  But to hear her tell about how on that day, he had a glow………GOODNESS it makes my heart tingle EVERY TIME I recount it!
My dad expected a lot from me.  My dad was strict.  My dad was one of the best math teachers to ever live. MY DAD WAS A FIGHTER (polio, shot and left for dead, heart attack on the day of my grandpa’s funeral, and a cancer journey).  You will be hard pressed to find someone that was as tough as him.  And he NEVER complained.  He might have gotten grumpier at times, but he just never complained.  He wouldn’t ever let me cry for very long without expecting me to pick myself up and keep moving.  He wasn’t a “hugger” or emotionally available guy. I can still remember the first time he truly said “I love you”.  It was a big deal.  He HATED that I was a procrastinator.  We spent most of my teen years fighting.  He didn’t “save” me from a lot of mistakes, because he knew that I was the type that just had to learn on my own – but also believed in me enough to know I was smart enough to eventually figure it out (even if I took longer than he cared for, to do so).  I’m sure we could all say we gave our parents a run for their money.  BUT HE CHOSE TO STAY.  He chose me.  And I know that he was proud.  He told me so, before he died, in a very emotional voicemail, that I would sell my soul to the devil to still have.
I can’t stop smiling and I have erased how many extra times I have typed it already.  HE CHOSE ME.  And I didn’t appreciate it enough, of course, until it was too late, and he was gone forever.  But, like I typed above, he always knew I would “get it” eventually.  So, I’m sure he is wondering around in heaven, not a bit surprised that I took way too long to “get it” about him.
I could sit on the front porch all day, with a glass of cold sweet tea and tell story, after story about him.  His story gives me breath and life….and it’s REALLY COOL that when I seem to be missing him the most, the big guy sends someone my way to listen to me ramble about what an incredible story (or 3) my dad had.  He is one of three major examples that contribute to me being set apart (I don’t say that to brag – because if anything, I’m a little ashamed that I haven’t made the most of what is so clear about those examples).
I don’t know why it took me until the eve of this Father’s Day to realize the whole chosen thing.  I wish it would’ve “clicked” while he was still alive, so that I could write him a cheesy card that he would just roll his eyes at and throw away (he was a man of few words – I was a child of too many words lol).  Maybe he would’ve kept it – he did keep this amazing wood burning art I did for him :P.  He wouldn’t have sat and let me brag too much about him though, he wasn’t that kind of guy.
I’m pretty lucky that I was chosen.  I’m pretty proud at how many people also saw how awesome he was, and I will never tire of hearing people talk about him (they still do, to this day – which is testament enough to his impact).  It’s pretty hard to justify letting anyone tear you down or make you believe in yourself less, when you had someone choose to fill one of the biggest roles in your life.  I had someone pick me!  And I will do my best to remember that before I cry to a friend (like I may/may not have done last week) when some stupid guy doesn’t pick me.
Thanks for letting me type out loud and process what is normally a rough reminder day.  If you read all the words, thanks for letting me proudly share about my awesome dad.  If your dad is still here, hug him or call him, but do not let him go unappreciated on this day.  Dad’s are such important people!