27 years ago today . . .
Can you believe it? A full-grown man is born and raised in less time than this.
27 years ago. It was passed the midnight hour when the nurse came out to see Craig and give him the news.
Mom, Dave and I had decided to come home once they turned on the machines to keep you alive. You were no machine to us. No, to us you were more than artificial life.
What I remember most about this day is the hours later. After receiving the news, I remember the first time I stepped out onto the front stoop.
What surprised me most is how nothing changed. You were gone and nothing stopped. The traffic lights still switched from green, to yellow, and then to red. Cars and trucks still drove down our street. And to me, this was hardest. To me, this exposed a painful fact about life.
We had lost the backbone of our family and time did not pause for a second. The sky did not weep or change color. The wind kept its pace and the day did not shorten for a minute.
Everything continued. “How cruel,” I thought to myself.
27 years have passed since then and everything still moves. Nothing slows down when sad things happen and time never pauses when we need or want it to. Life moves without negotiation; it moves without compromise, and without remorse. Life is nothing more than time and time continues to move in an eventual and inevitable way and there is nothing more unstoppable and nothing anyone can do about it
27 years is a long time, Pop.
A lot has happened since you’ve left. I was only a boy then. I was frightened and lost. I missed you during the times when I needed you most. I missed you when I needed guidance. I missed you when I needed a father and when I needed a friend.
I missed you most on New Year’s Day because this was our day. This is when we took our yearly walk on the beach. We counted the dead seagulls that washed upon shore and collected buried fishhooks that stuck out from the sand.
I truly missed you on days like this. I missed the long walk from Point Lookout towards Long Beach. I missed the stories you would tell me about my Grandfather and Uncle Moey. I loved those stories most because I never met them.
I missed you on New Year’s because there was no war between us on that day. There were no struggles or difficulty. This was our day of truce—no matter what happened the year before—this was our way to welcome in the New Year. To us, this was a day of hope. I missed you on these days.
27 years is a long time . . .
I’m not sure how so much time came between now and then. Perhaps this is just time doing its thing—perhaps this is time moving along in an unstoppable way without slowing down or showing flexibility.
I have learned a few things over the years. I learned that awareness takes time. Life takes time, learning takes time, and of course, grieving takes time.
I suppose I was afraid to let go of this—the grieving process, I mean. I suppose I was afraid to heal because if I healed, I was afraid this meant I did not love you enough.
I was afraid to let go of the pain because somehow, I thought the pain was equivalent to my loyalty—so I wore my pain proudly and I wore it well. I was afraid to forget your smile or the sound of your voice.
If I were to let go of the pain and sadness, I was afraid that meant that I as letting go of my dedication to you. I was afraid that meant I gave up on you and the instructions you left with me.
27 years later, and I’m not sure when the lesson settled in. Eventually, I got it.
Life is meant for living. Since time is limited, this means life is limited to only a brief moment of opportunity. And if I am to truly live, then I cannot live while holding on to the threads of yesterday. I cannot move forward while looking backwards and though I was frightened to let go of you; looking frontwards does not mean I have forgotten you as my Father.
I am proud to say that I looked after Mom like you asked. She was never able to let you go and I understand that. She was never able to move forward. I understand that too. You were her everything, Pop. You were her soul’s counterpart, and without you, Mom was never able to move on. I get that. This was her life.
There is something Mom used to say when I was younger. She used to tell me, “Our children are only lent to us. Someday, you will have a life of your own.”
Well Pop, 27 years later and I do have a life of my own. I have a home. I have a family. I have a car. I have two dogs, a shed in my backyard, and stack of bills that never seem to stop coming. Just like you Pop, I work with my hands. And just like you, I leave early in the morning and come home late at night.
Same as you, I have questions that have no answers. I have frustrations just like you did and I lose sight of what’s in front of me.
Exactly like you, sometimes I feel frightened that I’m not strong enough or good enough. I’m afraid that I am inferior and inefficient. I’m afraid to find out I’m an idiot or stupid and of all things to be called, being called stupid feels the worst to me. I am afraid of growing old and feeling incompetent. I’m afraid of doctors and being sick. I have the same fears as you, Pop. Exactly the same.
27 years later and I still honor our tradition on New Year’s Day. I take a walk—usually by the beach; only now, I moved away from the south shore . This means there are no beaches near me. But the sky is still the same. And my dreams of you and the love I have are no different. I am your son, Pop. I am a direct extension of you and with all my heart; I work hard to make you proud. with my head bent downwards, eyes closed, I pray this is true. With all my heart, I pray that I have not let you down.
I still keep away from the cemetery though. I don’t like that place. That’s where dead people live. When I want to visit, I look for you and Mom in the sky. I choose to imagine you both somewhere, smiling happily and at last, together forever.
27 years later and I still I miss you Pop. And no matter how many years get between now and then, I will always miss you until we see each other again—
Someday . . .