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Goodbye Dad

August 4, 2009

In January my dad died. It was an accident – he was fixing the snowblower in the garage, and even though he had the door open, the exhaust overpowered him and he died of carbon monoxide poisoning. He just sat down to have a cigarette, and didn’t get up again.

Tim got the call, and came home from work so he could tell me in person. We had just miscarried a baby two weeks prior, and I was still having a very hard time dealing with that loss. I was napping, and he woke me up. I think that moment will be burned into my memory for as long as I live,.. Tim’s face, so serious and concerned, as I tried to clear my head from sleeping to understand what he was telling me. I don’t know how long I just sat there,.. it felt like time just stood still for that moment.

I fell apart. I really didn’t have any emotional strength left… I’d been just reaching my 11th week of pregnancy, and that was a very hard loss. I’d been living in a fog since then, and the news that my dad died just crumbled the fog, so there was nothing,.. no padding, no insulation,.. just heart-rending grief that couldn’t be fixed.

Some people have said that they don’t understand what the big deal was, since I was mostly estranged from my dad anyway. Since we weren’t close, why did it matter to me? I could point out all the things that happened, all the reasons, big and small, that led to that estrangement,.. but that’s really not the point. When my dad died, I mourned him, because he was important to me, estranged or not.

Life is a series of choices, some easy and some very hard. Whether to have oatmeal or frosted flakes for breakfast, that’s an easy choice. Choosing between parents in a messy divorce, knowing that your choice will cut you to the quick no matter how you decide,.. that’s a very hard choice. I wish I didn’t have to make the choices I did. I wish that the situation hadn’t been what it was. I wish that a choice wasn’t forced on us. I wish we all could have made different choices.

I mourn the loss of my daddy, the man who had given me “horsie rides” as a little girl not much bigger than Gabe. I miss the man who called me Peanut, and Esmerelda. I think fondly of the man who taught me how to properly stain a pulpit, and varnish it to a glowing shine. I miss sneaking down for late night action movies, or early Saturday morning cartoon time with Dad. I miss going grocery shopping before the Sabbath and munching on chicken wings and laughing and joking together. I miss cherry picking every July, and racing to see who could fill more buckets. I miss the way he’d wipe his forehead with his arm when he was working so hard the sweat would be running into his eyes. I miss the way we could talk through gestures and facial expressions from across the room. I miss my Dad.

My dad had his great points, and all of us kids take after him in some way. He was a funny person, and could make anybody feel comfortable just a few minutes after meeting them. He could fix almost anything, and he could play music by ear. He was a gifted singer, and loved to pound away on the piano, or blow his horn – lol, if you know my dad, you get the joke hidden in that! He was a naturally compassionate person, and loved to help people out when they needed someone to depend on. And we take after him. My brother Tom is one of the most gifted people I’ve ever met at making people feel relaxed – he’s your best friend after a few minutes together. My sister LeeAnn has more musical talent than anybody else I know – she can play anything by ear, but isn’t limited to just that. And I,.. I’m a compassionate person, who can’t stand to see someone hurting without feeling like I need to do something to help. And we all have his humor,.. the best memorial service we gave Dad was the one with all of us kids, sitting around the table a few hours after we got that phone call, remembering Dad with stories that made us all laugh and cry at the same time.

For all that, Dad made some bad choices. He let anger and bitterness take over his life. He couldn’t understand that us kids didn’t feel the same way about our Mom as he did about his ex-wife. He felt that he had been wronged, and tried to hurt the people he felt had hurt him. He hurt what he should have protected. He lost his laughter.

I can’t change the things that happened, and the hurts that still sting. I can’t change the fact that my dad died alone. I wish desperately that none of the choices that led up to that had happened. And I pray, fervently, that God is everything He promises, and that my dad has found all the love and acceptance now that he so desperately sought during his life. I really hope that I can cling to all the good memories I have of my dad, and let go of the painful ones. And, more than anything, I hope I can learn from my dad, and make different choices in my life, so that I leave a happier legacy behind for my children.

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