I wrote this a few months ago but my life changed 10 years ago today. By the date it was yesterday but in my head it’s always Labor Day 1999, the day my father died. I didn’t post it to my blog so I thought I would do it now and remember what was lost ten Labor Days ago.
There are times when I wonder how my life would be different now if my father were still here. On September 6, 1999, my life changed forever because that was the day that God called my hero, my father, home.
When I get selfish I get angry at God for what he took from me that day because I wasn’t through learning what I needed to learn from him. My father, without a solitary doubt, was the most selfless person I have ever known. He was a man that this world does not see much of any more — someone who will give all of himself and expect nothing in return. A co-worker who would chew your butt and then go about helping you do whatever it was you were screwing up. A community servant who spent countless hours doing public works with the Grayslake Jaycess (and having a lot of fun too). A brother who would forgive again and again. A son who would only wish for his own father’s happiness despite how painful the choices he made might have been to him. A husband who loved his wife with all of his being through all the good times and the tough ones. And a father who would walk through the fires of hell for his children and would let loose that hell on any person who would seek to do us harm.
I’m not half the man my father was. I’m a selfish bastard that doesn’t deserve to bear part of his name compared to him. I was a lousy husband, I can be a half-ass father, an ungrateful son and a distant brother. I have few people who I would call close friends because I don’t let them in. I don’t let anyone near me. What my father could do with a smile and a joke I can only pretend to do.
So there are times when I have conversations with my father in my head. Most of the time he’s trying to straighten me out as I’m sure he would if he were still here. Where are these voices coming from? Are they of my design, something that I do totally on my own? Are they recessed programming of my father in my brain, my sub-conscious acting out as what my father was? Or is it his spirit come to visit me in times when I need it, when I feel an absolute and total failure and unable to go any further? I don’t know what they are but I hope they are him.
Life is a series of choices we make every day and for whatever reason as of late I seem compelled to make the quick and easy ones. My father never made the quick and easy choices. Despite being a superb mechanic he always drove the worst car. My father was driving a car with more then 200,000 miles on it and it sang like a top because that’s what he could do with an engine. When he wasn’t satisfied with what he could do with a wrench or the powerful hands that would pound my shoulder when he got home he would do any number of other things.
He spent years in the Jaycees giving of himself and proving to be a very capable leader. He took to the stage always happy to take on any role on the stage or behind it, whatever it did to put on a great show my father was there to do. He was a lousy golfer known to break clubs during trying times but would laugh it all off with a beer when he was through. I suppose that was key to who my father was — he was a man who saw himself as fallible and would then go about making sure that didn’t happen very often.
So perhaps it is a time of choosing for me, time for me to decide that I would do as he did and let go of what pains me and do more to embrace life. I think that anyone who knows me knows that I’m not the same person I was before September 6, 1999. Maybe it’s time to change that as I’m sure he would be the first one to let me know his displeasure with me carrying on about it.
Reconciliation is an interesting word and it’s used in many different contexts but there’s a stronger word than that though, and that word is reckoning. I think I have been too hot in the pursuit of reckoning and exacting of the punishment that reckoning brings upon myself. It’s a part of who I am or probably more of what I have become. Expecting perfection of one’s self you are always certain to fall short. I think there’s a selfishness and greed in me though that never accepts things as good enough – those I don’t completely let slide that is.
No, reconcile is a much better word and much better place to be. Reconciliation is about accepting the way things have gone and realizing there is no way to change them, only to move forward. It involves the release of pain, the burdens we choose to carry around with us like boulders that we want others to see.
I think those voices are the voices of reconciliation in my head, encouraging me to let go and move forward realizing that tomorrow is another day, another opportunity to further reconcile with myself. Because, after all, I have far more issues with me than anyone else does — it’s time to put down the shovel and climb out of the hole. It’s time to fill it in and recognize that’s where the hole was but it’s filled now and while I might remember the hole I can still walk across it, jump up and down on it, plant whatever I wish to on it — I can move past it.
I can if I start by putting down the shovel. Thanks Dad, I love you