Only for my family it’s today, December 22nd, and not September 3rd.
I am not sure how others may feel when losing a parent at a young age; for me, the absence is always there. In the beginning this was “standard” personal grief, five-stages stuff, but as I’ve grown older and become a father as well, it’s less overt. It strikes me more that I’m not just missing him, directly, but missing him in relation to everyone else I love. Things are subtly out of context because he’s not with us.
For example, my son has his Baba, my wife’s dad, and each loves the other dearly. It’s a blessing and a great joy. Watching them, sometimes, the absence will suddenly poke up from the background and make itself known: my son doesn’t have both Babas there. I have no doubt that Dad would have doted to distraction on The Lad, as he would have done to my sister’s son.
My father was not one to be uninvolved. I think he would have enjoyed talking shop with my wife’s father, chatting about families, retirement, politics. I picture him still drawing, only now putting the stuff up on Instagram; getting after me to write more; finding a part-time job somewhere to enjoy during his retirement. He’d be amazed if he came back now to learn that they made three more Star Trek series, five more Star Wars films, and that my Atari 2600 games had eventually morphed into near-photo-realistic experiences, influenced heavily by the mainstreaming of anime – which he only saw on the fringes of popular culture, or else in dumbed-down, highly-edited versions for children such as Battle of the Planets, Star Blazers, or Speed Racer.
In our family he was the “everyday” cook – Mom handled holidays for the most part, and the rest of the time Dad was playing culinary Frankenstein, cadging ingredients into an impromptu family dinner. It’s been a long time since we’ve done that, and not just because all three of us kids are adults now.
He’d be stopping by during the season, jibing me for going over the top with holiday gift-giving while steadfastly forgetting that he’s the source of that habit of mine; in turn we’d tease him because his normal gruff baritone became a Michael McDonald falsetto whenever he sang. And he would laugh and sing anyway, because he loved music and it was nearly always playing in our home. He probably would have bought one of the earliest iPods and kept up with the technology the whole time, while figuring out a way to get all his albums, cassettes, and 8-tracks digitized – because why should you pay for it all twice?
I am now two years and several weeks older than he was when he passed away, twenty-five years ago today.
Here’s to you, Dad.