#212 In which our hero recounts another Father’s Day passed.
Father’s Day this year was pretty low key. My wife made me a wonderful breakfast of frozen hashbrowns and take-out sausage from our favorite hole in the wall restaurant. I mowed the grass. We played with the girls on the swing set. We napped. Dinner was burgers and hotdogs and corn on the cob in the back yard. A pretty good day.
As usually happens, I’ve been thinking about you a lot this past week. While there are countless happy memories, for some reason I’ve really been stuck on, well, not unhappy memories, but little (and not so little) incidents where I screwed up. Things that I never apologized for, but should have. So:
I’m sorry I stole all those quarters from you. But keeping your coin sorter right out in the open, and unlocked, proved too much of a temptation for me. I never took more than a dollar’s worth at a time, and I probably didn’t score more than $20 before Mom caught me one day… but I still feel bad about it. Especially since I just spent the money on gumball machines and (later) video games. I don’t know if you ever noticed, or if Mom ever said anything to you… but you never said anything to me.
I’m sorry I smashed up the car, twice.
I’m sorry I made you worry. Granted, it wasn’t hard to make you worry, but I should have tried a little harder to be where I said I’d be, at the time I said I’d be. I always figured that if I got there within an hour or two of when I said I would, it was fine. Only now do I understand how much a person can worry about their kids when they’re out of sight… and in the days before cell phones that extra hour or two was an unknown gray time with equal possibility of me being irresponsible or dead.
When my high school football coach asked you to join the coaching staff, I’m sorry I was such a jackass about it. You were considerate enough to ask me about it before hand, but given your life-long love of sports, I know you wanted to do it. But all I could imagine was the hard time I’d get from the other players if my daddy was telling them what to do. You were always the best coach for me, I know you would have been outstanding in the role. But you passed, just because your selfish son objected.
When you lay dying at home, I’m sorry I didn’t visit more often. I lived the closest of us kids, but I just didn’t make the effort. I know that you hated anyone making a fuss over you, and in a strange way, I think you were happy that I stayed away. But that’s not why I didn’t come. It was because I was scared to death of you dying, and if I didn’t have to see it, it was less real. So you slowly wasted away from the strong, vibrant man I always knew to a frail, jaundice shell who could bared get out of bed, and I was horrified every time I did come home to see how far you had fallen. I should have come more often, should have spent hours talking to you, learning everything I could from you. There’s so many questions I’d like to ask now, but at 25, I was too young and too stupid to even know what to ask. And now it’s too late.
Finally, when the funeral director asked if the family wanted to be there when they closed the casket, I’m sorry I didn’t step forward. I was the man of the family now, I should have. But it was hard enough seeing your lifeless body laid out, waxy and strange. Funerals are such strange things… they pulled the partition across the room, neatly separating the living from the dead; then closed the casket where no-one could see. Like the closing of a lid would be tougher to take then seeing the corpse of your loved one. My mother and sisters made no move to witness this final closure, and I sat stone-still in the wooden folding chair, afraid to be the only one to move. Just before the partition clicked closed, it flashed through my mind that I should get up and watch, even if no-one else would. But the idea of being alone in the room with your casket, even for a moment, was too much to bare, so I did nothing. I’m sorry I wasn’t stronger.
And, of course, I’m terribly sorry that you never got to meet my wife and daughters. They’re the best; you’d love them. I’m lucky to have them. Just as I was lucky to have you as a dad. I miss you.