Saturday, October 6, 2012

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

One year ago today, my sister called to remind me that it was our father's birthday. I had only seen him once in two and a half years, and hadn't spoken to him other than that.

My sister pushed me to call him and said he'd be happy to hear from me.

Being in a spontaneous mood, I did it without thinking too much about it. I knew at that point that I was moving to Lynchburg, possibly indefinitely. I wanted to let him know somehow. So, I called.

There weren't any fireworks. No one freaked out. We actually didn't even acknowledge the fact that we had absolutely no relationship anymore. We just chatted for a bit.

I told him I was leaving in a few months and moving back to Lynchburg. I put myself out there and invited him to dinner before I left.

Then he got emotional and told me he appreciated me calling him. His voice broke as he started to cry. It got awkward for a second and then he said he needed to get going and we said our goodbyes.

And that was that.

We never got dinner before I left.

I never ended up seeing him before he passed away.

But I have no regrets.

We didn't know that he was going to pass away. At that point, he was already sick, only no one knew how sick, or that it was anything other than the flu.

I'd like to think that if he hadn't passed away, we would have a more mended relationship at this point. Because sometimes we need time.

Part of my grief process was feeling guilty about shutting him out. I thought that I would have more time. I was waiting to be ready to handle talking to him. Ready to handle the tough conversations. The possible arguments that would ensue. The possible hurt that would happen.

The only problem with that is that I wasn't ready to have those conversations until after he had passed away.

Today, my father would have been 59.

To honor him, at first, I wanted to do a private memorial service with just me and Jesus. Then, I thought about having a birthday party for him. But, my father was a simple man. So, I'm going to keep it simple and just share a few stories about my relationship with him that were shared at his memorial service.

This was my father, in a nutshell:

When I was 18, I had moved back in with my father after my parents separated. My dad's focus that year was trying to build a relationship with me. I, being a highly emotional teenager, and he, being a man who wasn't always sure how to express emotion found ourselves with an awkward dance around each other during my last year in high school. When my 18th birthday was coming around, he knew that it was supposed to be special. He wanted to make it special for me. So, he invited quite a few of our family friends over- ones that we grew up going camping and boating with. They all waited for me to come home from church. I knew it was my birthday, but I didn't expect much of a celebration, since I hadn't made a big deal out of it. But I was pleasantly surprise when I walked in the door and found a large group of people there screaming "Happy Birthday" at me. It scared the crap out of me, but it also communicated to me that my dad loved me- even if he didn't know what to do with me.
My first apartment in college found me without furniture and 7 hours away from my bed and dressers. For about a week, I slept on the floor in a sleeping bag and had my folded clothes organized in piles. When I was talking with my father about how I was going to get the furniture down to Virginia from Ohio, he told me that he could bring it down to me. I expected a moving truck and him staying for a weekend. What my dad did for me was above and beyond what I ever asked. He left work early on a Friday, packed my bed and two dresser (and even a lamp, I think) into his truck and drove 7 1/2 hours to Virginia. He then hugged me, told me he had to work the next morning, got back in his truck and drove home. My dad didn't always say much, but he was the type of man that would drive 15 hours straight just to make sure his baby girl had somewhere to put her clothes and a place to sleep.
My father was known among everyone in the family for his random phone calls. Actually, my siblings and I all compared stories the night before his memorial service. He would call because the wind was blowing or he saw a car that looked like ours or he saw an old friend of ours. He famously would call us kids if he was watching a TV show that reminded him of us. No matter what the reason for calling, you always knew when he was done talking because he would say one of his famous phrases, "Well.... that's about all I know." I never figured out quite what that meant, but I always knew when he was ready to get off the phone.

I love you, Daddy.

Happy Birthday.

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