Sunday marks the 13th Father’s Day I will spend without being able to speak to my father. Though he’s been gone many years now, I still miss him. Fortunately, I still hear his voice in my head and see his face in my mind’s eye.
Actually, if I want to see him, all I have to do is look in a mirror.
I miss playing golf with my dad. I miss talking with him on the phone, listening to him tell me how warm it is in Florida while I complain about the Indiana winter.
Though I’ve had a decade to adjust to life without parents, it remains a work in progress. I still sometimes feel as if I’m walking the tightrope without a net. I’m starting to think that feeling is permanent.
I had great parents and a happy childhood. While my dad couldn’t provide me with everything I wanted, he made sure I had everything I needed. When it comes to my dad, I have no complaints, but I do have one huge regret. I never really got to know the man behind the title.
Sure, I learned a lot about Dad just by watching him live his life. I knew that his family was the most important thing in his life. I know he passed up several good job opportunities in other states to keep us close to our grandparents and friends.
I know he was an honest man and a warm man, though he could be a bit short-tempered, a trait he passed on to his only son.
But I never found out exactly what made him tick. My relationship with Dad was always good, unless I had pulled some bonehead stunt that landed me on the naughty list. I loved him, and I knew he loved me.
However, heart-to-heart talks weren’t part of our relationship, especially after I left for college.
Most of our conversations were limited to inquiring about each other’s well-being and comparing current weather conditions.
What I regret is that I didn’t try harder to go below the surface and really know the man. I know his biological father died when he was a toddler. I know my grandmother remarried, and her new husband, who adopted my dad, was the only father he ever knew.
But I don’t know what kinds of things he liked to do as a kid. What were his hobbies? Did he ever get in trouble? What for? When did he first notice girls?
He served with the U.S. Navy Seabees on Okinawa during World War II. I know he was caught in a typhoon during that time, and because of that he was leery of high winds for the rest of his life. However, that’s the full extent of my knowledge of his wartime experience. Why didn’t I ever ask him to tell me all about those years and how they affected him?
What first attracted him to Mom? How did his life change when my sister and I were born? What was it about chemistry that he liked well enough to make it his life’s work? What were his political views? Did he lean Republican, Democrat or independent?
Did he have any regrets?
I hope my daughters don’t feel the same way about me. I hope they know they can talk to me about anything and ask me anything.
As for me, I’m going to try harder to do my part. A few years ago one of my girls gave me a book for grandparents. Through various questions, it allows grandparents to record important family history but also requires the writer to reveal personal thoughts, opinions, etc.
I haven’t been very good about completing it, but I’m going to try harder from now on. And I’m also going to make sure I talk to my daughters — and grandchildren — about more than the weather.
When I’m gone, I hope to leave behind warm feelings and happy memories, not questions I’ll no longer be able to answer.