As I reach to turn the music up a little louder, my left hand grips the steering wheel tighter, the veins in my hand puffing out like I just finished some meathead workout. Cat Steven's Father & Son continues to play on. Recently, this has been a frequent occurrence when I drive alone. A song thrusts me into a tornado of emotions as I think about "love" and what that means. Love for yourself. Love for another. A friend. A family member. I mean its the holidays anyway. I like to think for a moment during the holidays, like the movie 'Scrooged' noted, we as humans feel like we are the kinds of people we always wanted to be. Selfless. Filled with love and hope. The want to change for the better. The want for humanity to be better. To make a stranger smile. To be sure everyone has a warm bed, a roof, and food in their belly. To be the best version of ourselves for this world.
But this year is hard.
In early October I asked my father for a phone call one Saturday morning. I told him I wanted to have a good father/son call. In actuality, I wanted to tell him that I don't have the happy memories he shares with me of a time long ago. High school sports to be specific. My father loved talking about me as an athlete. He was proud. I was a standout big fish in an excruciatingly small pond. But to me those memories were flooded with his deception to my family. The entire house he got with another woman. The lies. The manipulation. The hurt he caused my mother and my sisters.
I began to word vomit how all of these things effected the way I view that time and how because of it, our own relationship changed. While other dudes had their father in their corner in their 20s, I did not. He had taught me to stand up to people who disrespect you and your family and to me, that's what I was doing. But by the end of the conversation, my father said something to me that he's never really said to any of my siblings or I... I really am sorry Bub.... He used to always call me Bubba, Bub, Or Petesa (Pizza).
My sisters and I have heard him say empty things before but this time... it felt....real.
So when I saw him a few weeks later, we did something I haven't done since that time in high school. We sat and watched football and laughed. He could barely hear me at times but I would catch him just watching me as I looked back from the tv. The day I left to go home, I told him I loved him and that I missed this so much. I'm 33. Grown ass dude. My father at that time already had 2 kids. But for me to sit down with my father and just watch football brought one of my most favorite childhood memories back and it gave me some of that hope...that want to change for the better. But also a feeling that I have missed for over a decade.
Unfortunately whatever god you believe in or the universe in general, has a sick sense of humor because as soon as I was given hope, my father died 3 days later.
My fathers childhood was terrible. Abusive mother. Criminal father deported and locked up for majority of his childhood. But my father himself, was a great dad growing up. He was my biggest fan and a voice that I could always pick out in a crowd. He knew what not to do to children and he made it a point for all of his kids to have a different and better childhood. He just didn't know how to be a parent to adult children and it was with that recent apology that I forgave him for that. As the Ted Lasso line goes, Love My Father For He Is and Forgive Him For Who He Isn't.
As the holidays approached this year, I have been trying to search for that feeling of "love" but it is hard. Not only is this the first Christmas without him but his birthday is just around the corner on Jan 2. So I attempt to lose myself in work or some form of charity where just the action of giving not only takes my mind off of things but fills a fresh wound that will never fully heal. Even just for a moment. This writing alone has taken me weeks get together because I can't get through most paragraphs without crying and snotting up my computer while my dog attempts to lick the tears off my face.
The last few months though in general have been a blur and as the year winds down I find myself trying to crawl out. Conversations with my sisters and mother help. Therapy helps. My dog greeting me as I come home and wake up helps. Purposeful work helps. Charity work helps. Saying good morning to my neighbors helps. But I miss my dad and that loss still has me most days drifting off into memories of a man that provided a positive childhood foundation that made me the man I am today.
I am grateful for the time we shared in this life together. I even still oddly listen to his voicemail most nights before I fall asleep in hopes of a dream where we talk.
Love is hard. Death is harder. And the daze that I feel overwhelming my mind this holiday I know will clear. I just really miss my dad.
..... The Journey Continues...