Washington Evening Journal
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Me and my dad: A complicated story
Sunday was Father’s Day. It also happened to mark the third anniversary of my dad’s passing.
In many ways, my dad was a super hero in my eyes. I always looked up to him, and not just because he was six-and-a-half-feet-tall.
He was the man who could build or fix just about anything.
Just before Memorial Day one year, he got it in his head he wanted to add a large deck onto the back of his house — a multilevel deck that would wrap around his aboveground pool.
At the start of the weekend, he bought a bunch of lumber and a case of Budweiser, and by the end of the weekend, his deck was complete.
Even as an adult with a family of my own, I always felt like a little boy around him.
I didn’t grow up around my father. He and my mother divorced when I was just a toddler.
Many of my childhood memories of him were excitedly waiting for him to pick me up on a Friday night to spend the weekend with him.
More often than not, though, he was a no-call, no-show, leaving my mom to console me.
As a result, my dad and I had a complicated relationship that ran in cycles.
There were times when we were close and times we were not.
Right after I graduated from high school, we had a falling out and didn’t speak to each other for nearly three years.
Out of the blue, he called me to check up on me, and the past was forgotten again.
We had a good relationship for a long while after that until we had another falling out about six years ago.
Once again, we gave each other the silent treatment for about two years, until my sister called me to tell me that our dad had been diagnosed with cancer.
I swallowed my pride and called him. He assured me everything was OK, and he was getting good treatment.
After that, it was radio silence again until spring 2018 when my sister, once again, called me to let me know Dad was in bad shape. I called, and he admitted things weren’t looking very good for him.
I arranged a trip back to Vermont to see him one last time. We were able to spend a little time together, never addressing any real issues.
On the last day I saw him, I handed him a long letter I had written the night before, saying many of the things I’ve written here.
I also wrote that we were both stubborn and have been saying, “He’s got my number,” for the past several years.
I wrote that I knew I wasn’t the son he envisioned, but I hoped he was still proud of me.
He put it in his pocket, we hugged and said our goodbyes, and I left. He told me to call when I got home.
I called him from the road the next day as I crossed into Iowa.
“I read your letter, and we’ll talk about it later,” he said.
Later never came.
The next day, he took a major turn for the worse, and ended up heavily sedated in hospice care. Eight days later, he was gone.
At his funeral, I placed that letter in his casket before they closed it. My words will always be with him.
Did we reconcile? Was he proud of me?
I don’t know, and I guess I never will.
All I know is that I got the chance to give him my words and feelings.
I suppose that’s enough.
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