May 10, 2009
My dad went to his peace on May 10, 2009.
My sister in law called me at 7:27 AM and said he had passed about 10 minutes prior. 7:17 AM... 9:17 AM Georgia time. I have no idea why it matters, but it does.
My dad lived on this earth for 73 years, 5 months and 15 days. Not long enough, but I know, longer than many.
It hurts... but not as badly as watching him deteriorate and become a shell of his former self.
I think I'll just dwell on his former self...
My friend Carol, who has been a best friend since we were 13 (and through us, our parents became life-long best friends) made me laugh tonight. I posted a status update on facebook about appreciating those I love and who love me and her response was "Stripes and solids... I wonder who's running the table?" reminding me of how our fathers loved to play pool together during their summer camp trips. It made me smile and it made me think.
I have a handwoven basket in my living room. On the handle, in faded black ink it says, "Kyle Troop 50". This basket is the only memento of my father's childhood and time prior to college. My father's childhood pictures and mementos were destroyed in a fire years ago - all except this one basket. My parents gave me this basket about 10 years ago, because they had no place to keep it, and knew I would treasure it. I do.
I look at it often and think about how little I really know about my father's early years. I know he grew up in the mountains of New Hampshire. I know he went to Bible College on a basketball scholarship. I know he played basketball in an exhibition game against THE ORIGINAL HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS! (I always thought that was the ULTIMATE in cool!) I know his nickname in college was "Snake" because of his ability to weave in and out of the defense...
I know my father proudly served his country for 22 years in the Air Force, and inspired four of the seven of us to follow his footsteps.
I know my father was just that... a father... and a wonderful one at that. He "biologically" fathered three, and was the father to seven total. In my father's mind, it didn't matter "bio" or not... we were all his kids, and he would kick our butts equally when needed. We never knew the difference, it's only in looking back at how he loved us all equally that I realize the beauty in that fatherly love.
I have such beautiful memories... mostly random, very few really "deep". The best memories are those that epitomize the kind of man he was. My dad was a fishing fanatic, a hunting enthusiast, a pool player, a beer drinker (although never, ever did I ever see him even slightly drunk!), and a helper of anyone in need.
I learned how to put my heart out there from my father. I learned to give without expectation of return from my father. After my mother died, my father "hired" two different ladies to help care for us kids (on a bartender's salary with a small military pension) who were going through tough times or were in abusive situations and needed a safe haven. He was a friend to anyone who needed one, and expected nothing in return. If anything, that's what I admire most about him.
I could go on and on... but the specifics really don't matter. What matters is that I was blessed... and I do mean TRULY blessed, by being the daughter of an imperfect, yet loving and caring man. A man who, no matter what screwups I made in my life, loved me 100%. If I ever felt he was disappointed in me, that was my own problem, because he never made me feel that.
My children, and my brothers and sisters children, were blessed to have an awesome Grandpa. Whether it was basketball, fishing, wrestling, or just grabbing on to the biggest dang nose ever, they had that fun with Grandpa. He loved his grandkids beyond belief. Toward the end, when he reacted to little else, he would light up at the sight of his grandchildren. When no one could get him to eat more than two bites of anything, he ate an entire hot fudge sundae fed to him by his granddaughter... my daughter... smiling and enjoying every bite.
Goodbye Dad... thank you for 44+ wonderful years of love. On behalf of all your kids and grandkids, thank you for the years of joy we had with you. Goodbye is hard, but the alternative of the past months is much harder. You deserve this time of peace, and of rest...
I love you so much, Dad!!! I miss you!!! I'll miss you forever!!! Thank you so much!!! I love you... I love you... I love you!!! Oh God, I love you so much!