I was ten. I can remember my grandmother banging on our door early in the morning before the sun came up, my mom getting dressed and fussing, then being left with my grandmother. I remember as I sat and watched the Smurf’s, being told that my father was dead. I can remember the days afterward in a blur, the newspaper article about his accident, cleaning our house, the family coming by and sitting with us and someone gave me a New Kids on the Block VHS tape that I watched over and over because I didn’t want to deal with people. I remember the silly questions some of my family members asked us kids instead of asking our mom and the many family members that I had never seen before, but remember some of their faces as if I was that ten-year old kid again. The weight, the impact of his loss did not hit me that day, but it hits me every year around this time. It’s been twenty plus years since I heard his voice, smelled his smell, and felt his presence in my life. I can’t remember what he sounds like or what his cologne smelled like. Being a young woman without a father, when your father is supposed to mirror to you what you should expect from a man and sometimes I have learned, what not to expect form a man, is tough. I can remember the day of his funeral, the rain, the coldness, and not being able to get out at the cemetery for the last part of the ceremony. I used to tell myself when I got a little older that it was because the casket was empty and my dad was on a super spy mission for the United States, sad to say, I knew and always knew that this was not true, but it was okay to wish that he was somewhere watching or just around the corner.
My father died on December 21st, 1990, on his way home in a field that I would pass often as a child, teenager, and adult. He was thrown from our family car. I spent years being angry because it was a safe emotion, it kept people away from me, and I have spent time being sad, because it was the only emotion that I had not explored as a young child. I cried my tears, but I can’t remember anyone ever telling me it was okay to be sad. Every year I change my Facebook photo for his birthday and the day he died, knowing that had he lived, he would have been 60 this year. These days after a house fire that took all of our possessions in 1997, I only have that one photo. He would enjoy hunting and fishing with his ten grandchildren. There is no telling what his three daughter’s might have been had he lived. There is no telling if our trajectory would have changed. I sometimes wonder would he have kicked my butt when I would have come home and told him that I wanted to join the Army.
But I say that he would have been proud of the people that we have become. He would have been proud to tell me to kick ass no matter what I chose to do and to not accept being second when I could be first. He would have been harder on us because he didn’t want us to take any junk from anyone and he would have told us not to settle in his own way. He would have told us to stand up for ourselves, which was one of the big lessons that he, my mother, and grandparents taught all of us. I feel that this is why I’m not afraid to call out an injustice and advocate for those that don’t have a voice. I am in many ways like my father. I’m rough around the edges, I cuss sometimes, and I drink. I am stern and I am stubborn and I miss him. There is not a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t wish he was here to kick our butts and see his grandsons and granddaughters.
As I close this, I will say that my father was not perfect, but he was my dad. He was rough around the edges like me and he got his point across, like I feel I sometimes have a tendency to do. I know that he watches over the three of us and shakes his head at us when we do bone headed stuff and probably raises his belt to us so we will listen a little better. He loved us in his way and he was here for a minute and then he was gone.