Today marks 5 years since my Dad passed away. It feels like a lifetime. Then there are days it feels like it happened yesterday. Loss is like that. Some days you move through life unburdened by it. Other days it cuts you to the core and the memories are strong.
I've written about my father before. You can read about how I took care of him and our final moments together in my post from last year, Father's Day Dinner and Memories of Dad. My father passed away from lung cancer in May of 2007. He had a very short battle with the disease. Looking back I think it's almost better if it takes you swiftly. The pain it causes, and the heart ache, takes such a toll on the person and those around them. My heart breaks for anyone battling cancer. It also breaks for everyone who loves someone with cancer. It will touch your life, change your life and make you appreciate life in ways you never did before.
For me I had to decide early one whether I was going to become bitter or better for going through it with Dad. I chose better. I wanted to feel it, learn from it, and grow because of it. It's not easy to open yourself up to the experience but if you can it will make you a stronger version of yourself. It was not easy, not by a long shot. My father was a difficult man, he was angry, often mean and very bitter. He was not easy to spend time with. We had a very combative relationship prior to him getting sick. But when he called me to ask for help I figured I could either let it go or let it control me. It was easy to decide to let it go. It is amazing what happens when you make the decision to let the past go. Not just say you're going to but really do it. The world is a different place. We still had our moments and it was a difficult 8 months but I got through it and learned to love and appreciate my father more than I thought possible.
I am grateful I went on the journey with him. I learned so much about him. We had lots of time to fill, so we talked about life, childhood, love, everything under the sun. I found out things about him I did not know. Things I didn't want to know some days. But I am thankful now I had that time to really get to know him and understand him. It is easy to see why he was the man he was after learning more about his childhood. He did the best he could with the tools he had and in those moments of understanding any shred of leftover bitterness over our childhood melted away. It was nothing compared to what he'd been through.
While our childhoods were difficult at times we also had tons of fun. My Dad always made sure we took a family vacation every year. I'm grateful for those memories. They are plentiful.
I remember him eating ice cream almost every single day.
I remember him teaching me how to fish.
I remember him teaching me how to canoe.
I remember him and I going hiking alone one day and having so much fun just being together.
I remember him always trying to get me to laugh for the camera.
I remember him writing "no wee wee in the waa waa" on our pool deck in bold paint and thinking he was the funniest person on the planet because of it.
I remember him teaching us how to shoot pool.
I remember him getting so excited every time we would see a wild animal on our camping ventures.
I remember him talking his whole life about retiring and buying an rv and travelling everywhere, in particular Alaska. He made that trip when he retired just like he said he would. He was gone a whole year and had the time of his life.
I remember him crying only a handful of times in his life. The worst was the day he told us my Mom had died. He picked us up from school with my uncle and told us in the car in the school parking lot. I remember being so stunned by his emotion because he always seemed so emotionless. After that I didn't see him cry until he got sick. Even then he was strong and only broke down three times during that year. I was honoured to be with him when he did, it bonded us, made me realize my tough father was human.
I am telling you now I am probably going to be haunted by this man tonight. He was not a fan of the "evil internet" and did not care for private things being put on it. So I would guess he's preparing to scare the living bejesus out of me tonight for this one. I bet he had no idea his daughter would grow to share her whole life on the internet. It's okay Dad, I did not share any embarrassing ones or any of you while you were sick. I was going to but I knew you would stalk my ass till the end of time if I did. Hoping this will just get me haunted and stalked a smidge.
I always loved my Dad but I think it took him being sick for me to understand and like him. I am ever grateful to him for pushing me, challenging me, testing me, and loving me. He had a weird way of showing love but once I finally understood he was terrified of being vulnerable so he hid it deep within himself, then I finally got it. I got him. And everything made perfect sense. He kept every card we every gave him, every note we ever left him, every gift we ever gave him. He held onto them liked prized possessions, kept the cards and notes in binders as a diary of his life. I had no idea how sentimental he was until he was gone. Now I flip through those binders on occasion to remind myself of who he was and what we meant to him. It's a nice keepsake to have.
So for all of you who still have your Dads around, give them a hug. Appreciate them. Let stuff go. Take pleasure in the little things. You will be grateful one day you did. My Dad taught me to live life with no regrets. I hope one day when I look back I am that comfortable in my own skin that I can honestly say I have none. What a concept. He gave me this advice one day when we talked about his life and how he felt about nearing the end of it, "Do what you want, when you want to do it and live your life the way you want to live it. And to hell with everyone who doesn't like it." My Dad rocked at owning it, long before the days of Dr. Phil. I hope I can own it Dad. The good, the bad and the beautiful!
Toodles and smoochies! xx