Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dear Dad: Thanks for Everything

Dear Dad,

This morning I woke up knowing that it was Father's Day and thought about how I would go visit you at the nursing home.  It only took a few seconds for my brain to catch up and remember that you are gone.  It is that time of year again where I am constantly reminded of you.  Father's Day, closely followed by the anniversary of the day you passed and then your birthday.  I usually get sad and then mad and sad again but eventually I remember the valuable things you left me with.  It feels like each time I think about you and what we experienced together I'm reminded of another way that you showed me how to embrace life and weed out the crap (gardening pun intended).

I remember sitting in the car with you one spring day.  We were driving back to the nursing home and by this point in time you didn't speak much.  We were stopped at a stop sign and all the sudden you made a small gasp while you gazed out the side window.  I turned and followed your gaze to a gigantic cherry blossom tree with beautiful pink flowers all over it.  We sat at the stop sign for a couple minutes just enjoying how beautiful the tree was and it dawned on me how amazing it was that I didn't even need you to tell me what you were looking at to know what you saw and how it made you feel.  Now I try to make sure I find the time to stop and "smell the roses" every once in a while, something I rarely made time for before.  Thank you for reminding me how much beauty we are surrounded by on a daily basis.

As you progressed into the disease and became less and less like my dad each day, I'm sorry to admit that I started to struggle with motivating myself to visit.  I had just had your first granddaughter and I wanted to spend my entire weekend watching her grow, instead of watching you fade away.  It was so hard to see you in that frail body but I made myself visit and tried to focus on the happy memories I've had with you.  Now that you are gone, I am so thankful that I don't have any regrets and I've tried to carry that over to other parts of my life.  I know I can't do it all but when it comes to visiting friends, taking advantage of new opportunities, taking risks, and showing people that I care about them, I'd rather be a little busy than regret not spending time with the people I care about or living my life to the fullest.  Thank you for showing me that you are more likely to regret what you didn't do than what you did. 

Being the youngest of 14 kids, you probably spent a lot of your childhood wishing you could just be alone.  Which I can totally understand but you also somehow managed to be one of those people who everyone loved to be around.  You were friendly, kind and extremely loyal to your friends.  Watching postcards come in the mail almost every single week from your friend Mark for YEARS showed me what it means to be a good friend.  I've had friends that created constant drama with their insecurities, bitterness, and thoughtless actions.  Losing you made me see that life shouldn't be wasted on undeserving friends.  I now save my kindness and loyalty for people that bring joy to my life just by being who they are, a good person.  Thank you for showing me that life is too short for crappy relationships. 

By the time I was 28 years old, I consider myself an expert in Social Security, Medicare and Power of Attorney.  Not something many 28 year olds could say.  One day when you were living with your sister in North Carolina, mom called to tell me that she found your Will and it hadn't been updated since you got divorced from your third wife. You had been diagnosed with a incurable disease and your Will was leaving everything you had to a woman you didn't speak to anymore.  It wasn't a matter of making sure your children inherited your money one day, we needed money to pay for your care and thankfully we were able to update the Will.  And I am thankful down to my very core that you included your advanced directives in your Will.  You specified that you didn't want any lifesaving measures taken, specifically a feeding tube, and I know that if I had to make that decision for you, it would have broken my heart.  Shortly after we had our oldest daughter, we went to the lawyer and had our Living Wills created.  Thank you for showing me how important it is to get your life in order, especially when you have kids.

I remember sitting next to your bed at the nursing home one day and struggling to remember what it was like before you were sick.  Luckily you and mom were both amazing photographers so we have more photos than we know what to do with but I was having trouble holding on to a real memory.  Every memory I had in my head of you was tinged with Alzheimer's.  When I was a young I didn't pay enough attention to you being in my life.  Instead of trying to rush through life; instead of being frustrated and angry about you not being around all the time; I should have stopped to enjoy having you as my dad.  My healthy, vibrant and amazingly funny dad.  I don't want to rush through anything again.  I take pictures constantly now.  I started writing down my favorite memories of the girls as often as I can remember and try to embrace it all.  Thank you for showing me that every single moment is worth appreciating and capturing, good or bad.  

These next couple of weeks are going to be particularly hard without you but I will keep reminding myself of all the amazing things you taught me.  Enjoy life's beauty, regret nothing, surround myself with good friends, keep my life in order and appreciate everything I am lucky enough to have.

Thanks Dad.

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