In just two week's time, I've changed drastically. You might not see it when you look at me, except for maybe some new wrinkles on my forehead or some heftier bags under my eyes, but I've changed. I know these changes are good changes, changes that will make me a better person, live a more thoughtful life, but how these changes occurred is something I wish upon no one.
On Sunday September 4th 2016, my family lost one of our greatest assets, one of our brightest lights, one of our strongest, funnest, sweetest, most caring, goofy and genuine members... my father. It was quick, unexpected and just plain not fair. The wound is fresh, the tears are often, the moments of anger pop up from time to time, but more than that are the dear memories I hold in my heart and the restored strength of my faith. The guilt is there during the times when I smile or let out a laugh, the waves of sadness come in strong, but I know it's all a part of the process.
Since my dad passed away I've changed. I feel more. I feel deeper. I understand differently. My words have more meaning. Some things matter more to me, and some things matter less... much, much less. My patience for some things is much greater while at the same time I have patience for far less. Out of all of this, I think I understand my Dad better. As I've been growing into adulthood I was appreciating him more and more... and now I appreciate him completely.
My Dad was a year or two younger than I am now (I'm 29) when he suddenly lost his brother. As a teenager he lost his mother. When I was very young girl, he also lost his father. So, while I can't fathom the amount of grief, sadness and loss that he felt three times... I think I now have a glimpse of it in losing him. And I think I finally understand him.
I get why my Dad would say hi to anyone and everyone. I understand why his five minute hello would turn into a 45-minute sit down chat. I understand why the words, "well, I guess I just don't worry about it" rolled so easily off his tongue. I get why he judged no one and was kind to everyone. For the man that I couldn't ever quite figure out, I think I get him now.
He knew how bad it felt and how much it hurt to lose a parent. He knew how deep the pain goes of losing someone you love. But through that pain he knew what mattered most, and he cared so deeply about those that are still here. I remember my sister and I talking once and just saying "How does Dad not worry about stuff?" And I get it now. Why worry? When life could change in literally the blink of an eye, why worry. Why worry about what people think of you. Why worry about what might happen if you do or don't something. That's easier said than done... but I think I get it now.
My dad was a kind, generous, thoughtful man. He paid attention to people, said hi to everyone, cared deeply and loved with all his heart. Maybe you didn't always know or immediately see how much he cared, but those moments where you got a glimpse of it are what stuck with you, what would make your heart melt, and would just make you look at him in a different, sweeter light. Through his stereotypical Irish temper was a man who put his family first, who loved and honored his wife, who was proud of his kids and loved picking on his grand-kids. He wouldn't say a bad word about anyone (expect for the %#@&%*! drivers downtown) for the integrity of that person, and always kept it in perspective... except when he couldn't find his $%&#@$ screwdriver that HE JUST SET DOWN. He put anyone and everyone before himself, he would help me out at the drop of a hat and "Dad! Come here!" and who's own schedule didn't matter if you were calling him in a time of need... or buying a new car.
He loved selflessly and gave his time and energy to those who mattered most to him, or to strangers who just seemed nice. Looking at his life from a "normal person's" perspective, you would say he had a lot of not-so-awesome days.... got walked all over a time or two, loved and lost, and got let go of a job where he put nearly 40 years of his life into. He had aching knees, hips and shoulders from that job, and worked harder for his family than anyone I know. He earned every single buck he made and did everything he could for my mom, for us kids, and for our family. We didn't take extravagant vacations, or have the newest and best of everything, but he was at every game, at every event. He patiently sat in the stands when it was a gruelingly long band concert or a game where his kids (except for Chris) lacked any sort of real athletic ability. He made the most of it.... WE made the most of it. To my dad, so much more mattered than how much money was in the bank account or what material things we had. What mattered most to him was putting a smile on our faces, creating a comfortable, happy home for us to live in, and teaching us the things that life taught him.
After all these years, I think I finally get my Dad. I get why he loved everyday, I get why he gave with all his heart, why he worked so hard, why he never held a grudge and why he had such a great sense of humor. He was the way he was, because why else would one want to live any differently? The man had it figured out... and I think I'm getting it figured out too. You never know what someone else is going through, so just be nice to them anyway. You never know if your last day might be just around the corner, so do it anyway. You never know where that opportunity could lead, so do it anyway. You just never know... so why not. Why not make that stranger smile? Why not become friends with the car guy? Why not take your wife out on a fun day-date? Why not crawl around on the floor with your grand kids? Why not make someone's day a little better?
I think I finally get why my Dad was the way he was... because he's been where I am right now. And he knows.. no one should ever feel this way, but if they have to, they should know how loved they were. I know I do. So have a little empathy, show a little respect, offer a hug and a kind word, quit being a sissy and fearing things that just don't matter, forget what people think of you, and make the most of each day. Find what you love to do, be okay that it may change over time, and leave a legacy to be proud of.
Dad, for a simple man you were always someone that just made me wonder. But I get it now. I get you. And I thank you for all that you've taught me....
Love you forever, and ever, Amen.