Some of my favorite memories of my dad and life are housed here in various blog posts here, but much like the family's cozy Cape on Verdun Street, I don't visit as often as my heart and guilt thinks I should. Sure, I know a professional could life-coach me through this. There are those who could definitely prescribe better organization of the myriad life-y things that this full-time working mom of two teen athletes contends with so I could steady this Jenga tower and hell, maybe even fire up my writing or (gulp) rework my book.
Truth is, I am simply not interested in climbing Everest at the moment.
Maybe it's better to say that I am deeply aware of the value of not strong-arming and browbeating this year's fragility, but rather the value of honoring it. Especially today.
Today is the first anniversary of my dad's death. I have thought about him at least a million times since I got the call last year--its own sort of surprise attack and horrible loss landing early in the morning on the 76th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Some thoughts are devastating--particularly those associated with what I know were his brutal, brave last 24 hours. Some are as confused as an out-of-stater at the tiny Dover traffic circle, and cause me to reprimand my mind for daring ask the questions that still remain. Mostly (and thankfully) I just think about his dimpled Cheshire grin and the zillion hilarious and heroic ways he demonstrated what being a good man and father meant.
As the end of our year of firsts without him approached, I found myself needing to speak of him more. Random memories of him flipped about like a child’s card deck shuffle gone wrong. For those who know (and put up with) this part of me, this can be painful listening. This means hearing things like frustrated anxious exhales and pauses abruptly interrupted by rambling run-ons and other seemingly disconnected thoughts. I am only slightly better suited to write and literally run-on this stuff here, but that has been its own challenge (please see paragraph 2). Thanks to recently visiting parts of his life that were humbly hidden, I have been purging my overstuffed brain to a few close souls. And strangers. I have been trying to come to terms with the nor'easter of emotion associated with the brutally cold winter of all of this.
My dad was a beautiful, unique man. Not that it mattered to him. He had this incredible, quiet IQ with a giant EQ to match. He absorbed and retained all sorts of things of interest, making him so much fun to talk to. He could swing from discussing the pros and cons of pipeline development, foreign relations, or of running a flea flicker vs. a Statue of Liberty. He worked on either the second or third stage of one of the first rockets that went to the moon (I obviously didn't inherit his ability to absorb and retain things). He coached championship football teams, hunted 10-point bucks in the Maine puckerbrush, and was almost electrocuted to death while working on a metal ladder. As mentioned in earlier blog posts, and known to most that had the pleasure of knowing him, he miraculously beat a terminal cancer diagnosis when he was in his 30's, and then beat three more diagnosis of other forms of the dreaded C (I swear just to prove he could).
Dad didn't brag about his life or beliefs, or overshare or interject much. He was, however, a compelling storyteller. He was often both the smartest and the cheekiest person in the room. He was certainly the most lovable of wiseasses--with his best pal Reddy Levesque running a tie race with him if they shared the same room. I loved how he kept me apprised of our salty acquaintances from the summers when we worked together at the paper mill. I died at his take on the "Boston Red Flops," who would frustrate him like no other sports team could. I miss how he keeled us over with getting "stuck in the thick shit" while driving game in the bogs of Maine. His ability to laugh at himself was so damn endearing. He took self-deprecating humor to a whole new level.
One recent and very late night, I overpoured my scattered thoughts and heart's lamentations into a makeshift mind funnel and forced them out into Rob's ears (as I often do in a brilliantly poor manner when overtired). I was trying to reconcile too many things. This often happens when I speak with someone who has never had the honor of meeting my dad. How do you put all of that stuff--all his smarts and knowledge and the massive love and gratitude associated with that guy--into words? While dad's random attributes were spilling all over the conversation like keg beer from a red Solo cup, I could suddenly see it steadily: a conversation filled with beautifully curious questions and hilarious, intriguing answers. A conversation so clear, yet one that will clearly never take place. I had this very specific mental vision of Rob sitting on the couch next to my dad's recliner and the two of them speaking--one so profoundly inquisitive and the other so humbly happy to share his perspective on all the topics he was well versed in. I could see it so vividly--this thing that will never happen. I was thinking in such detail, but feeling like I was hardly articulating any of it as I tried to share it across the 1,700 miles or so between us. The sadness choked any remaining steadiness from my voice.
"I just wish you could have met my dad," I rambled. "I think you guys would have had these really cool conversations. He was so smart. So fucking funny. Hilarious. He truly was the most amazing human being. I really wish you had the chance to know him..." Just as I trail off after I fall over the avalanche of memories, Rob swooped back into the conversation to pick me up.
"I do know him, Stacie...
...because I know you."