Did I even know him?

February 7, 2020

Mostly it is loss that teaches us about the worth of things

Good grief: Remembering my father (3/12/44 - 2/7/98)

Recently, I listened to a story about the last letter a woman received from her father before he died. My first thought was how lucky, since my father left no note when he died. She went on to explain the little he had written left her empty and wanting, like that is all you wanted to tell me? It made me wonder if any words would be enough. And then I thought... did I know my father?

I  turned off the radio and sat in silence. Tears festered as I tried to unravel these emotions, the reminder of how much time I lost with him since his death in 1998, the unfairness of life, and what have I learned from all this?

If he was here today, I imagine, with some convincing, I could get my father to join me at Starbucks for a coffee. He would joke about the cost but eventually relent, since the one thing I know, he did love his coffee.

But would he have changed like I see myself evolving over these past twenty years? Would he work less and want to be with his grandkids and now great grandkids? Or would his focus still be on his business? There was talk of a company buying him out once, would that have changed his path in life? Did I even know him?

I was thirty-three, and he 53 when he died. I have already outlived him by a few years now in my 55th year. When I reach back into the past to one of our last conversations, I remember how he stifled his emotions, I am sure to protect me, during a season when pain was not dissected. At the time we were still struggling with Ryan's death, a loss that changed us all. 

His tears were thick and muffled, betraying his stern existence as he turned to hide the raw emotions provoked by his grandsons death. The pain seeped through his iron mask when he couldn't recall the last time he had laughed.

How hard it must have been for him to grapple with the pain of losing a grandchild, while watching me suffer. How I wish I had opened up more about my own pain, providing the space to soften his mask of bravery. Did he know he didn't have to be the tough guy? Did I ever really know him?  

Anyone who has lost understands the finality of death. The conversations abruptly end, leaving the survivors bereft in words. Death reminds us all of its presence, its certainty, its end. And if we don't share our true selves with one another will we one day leave them wondering if they ever really knew us?

I've been hoodwinked by death, with unanswered questions that leave me guessing, did I even know him? 


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