Twenty years and two weeks ago, December 15th, my father died. No matter how many times I look at that sentence, it still doesn’t seem possible. I wouldn’t say it seems like just yesterday, but it’s hard to believe it has been 20 years. I don’t feel 20 years older.
On December 11th he was in good health, but by the 15th he was gone. It didn’t seem real then, and I guess it still doesn’t.
I have been thinking, since that anniversary, about how much I learned from my dad when he was around, but even more, what I’ve learned since his passing.
Back then, I was the father of two little kids. Now my kids are grown, and I can appreciate how much he enjoyed visits from his grown-up children, and to see how the empty vessels they once were had grown into good, interesting people. I also now have an understanding of how gratifying it was for him to see his children’s children growing into their own personalities.
I hadn’t really thought of him as a role model back 20 years ago, but as I have aged, and as my place in life has evolved, I realize what a strong, solid person he was. When someone compliments me on stepping up to do what’s needed, they are really complimenting him, since he made doing so the only option. He never talked about it, but he lived it.
My dad always had lots of pursuits outside of his “day job.” One of them was a quarterly newsletter he put out called, not coincidentally, “Pursuit.” In the days before personal computers and the Internet, he used a mimeograph machine to print out hundreds of copies, and mailed them to subscribers around the country. Now, here I am with a weekly newspaper column and a blog. I never even made the connection between his Pursuit and my pursuits until a year ago.
Perhaps the biggest influence he had on me – another one that I didn’t really attribute to him until fairly recently – was the absolute respect he showed my mother. I am hopeful that the role modeling he did for me will continue on, and that my daughters demand that same level of respect and loyalty.
Twenty years is a long time. The pain of losing my dad has subsided, and it has been replaced by a wistfulness, for the lack of a better word. I wonder what he would have thought of me as I matured, and I feel bad that he didn’t get to know our children as adults. I think – no – I know he would be very proud, and very impressed.
With both parents gone now, I do feel a sense of emptiness, and a sense of regret for not having called as often as I should, or being as understanding and accepting of my parents’ foibles as I should have. But, that’s another lesson they gifted me with, I guess.
Christmas is always a time for memories of those who aren’t with us anymore. My wish for you is that you join me in appreciating the things in us that came from those loved ones. They are still here. They are in us, just as, years from now, we will be present in the people we have influenced.
A person could make the connection between the Christmas story, and the Easter story, and how we live on through others. But, I’m no theologian, so I’ll just leave it at this: Thanks Dad.