Saturday, November 02, 2013

Another birthday without dad

My dad would have been 79 today.

I once thought that the feeling of being ripped off by the universe would subside with time. And to a certain extent the sting of it all feels ever so slightly more manageable the further removed we get from the day we lost him. But it never really goes away, either. That gap-like feeling, that you don't simply "return to life's routine" (hands down, the dumbest thing anyone can paste into an online condolence book) persists. Everything changes when you lose a parent, and it keeps on changing for as long as you, too, are on this planet.

I admit I felt a little ripped off by it all. Okay, significantly ripped off. Angry, even. His illness wasn't some random thing that emerged out of nowhere and struck him without warning. He didn't take care of himself, full stop. Didn't eat right. Didn't exercise. Spent entirely too many afternoons eating bags of chips while watching football games from the couch instead of playing the actual game with us outside.

I remember as a child begging him to be more active, asking him to join us on our bikes, to walk or swim with us. And whenever I raised the issue, he'd look to the floor in a way that continues to haunt me. As if nothing I said could ever change his mind, or alter his trajectory.

So when we received the "sudden" call that he was in the hospital and was going in for his first cardiac surgery - to repair six blockages, in total - I admit I wasn't surprised. I had dreaded this day seemingly forever, and now the inevitable had finally arrived. We packed the car and drove 9 hours through the rain, straight to the hospital, so our 10-day-old daughter could meet her grandfather for the first time.

Life and death, of course, are hardly so black and white. Scared by what happened to him, I vowed early on to lead a very different kind of life. I rode my bike, ran, and ate right. If I could leave the car at home and pedal instead, I would, even if it meant ridiculous adjustments to my and my family's schedule. Because riding dozens of kilometres through the countryside became a defining thing for me, a defiant statement that I would lead a very different life than my sedentary father. I was probably an arrogant little twerp at times, too, so defiant in my desire to not be like him that I was a little less than kind at various points along the way. But fear makes you do silly things, I guess.

The universe, of course, always has other plans. And I learned this year that you can ride all you want and it may ultimately never matter. You can get zapped because of your lifestyle. Or in spite of it. I learned that you can spend your time being angry over something your dad could - should - have controlled. Or you can find a way to accept that none of us is remotely perfect, that the day-to-day of life, or raising a family, can change us in ways no one else might understand. Who was I, after all, to question his wanting a quiet afternoon watching the game?

I also learned that anger adds a layer to the everyday that takes away from every current and future moment.

Speaking of moments, we aren't given enough of them in the first place, and we can't get any of them back after the fact. Can't go back in time and change behaviors. Can't fix the unfixable. Can't undo loss. Just...can't. Because like it or not that's how time is supposed to work.

But we do have today. And being ticked off at what we no longer have, and the reasons we no longer have it - and them - would be counterproductive. The simple truth is we've been given a today in the first place. So today I'll celebrate that I had a dad once, that he taught me well, that thanks to him I was able to follow a path that allowed - and continues to allow - me to pursue a life that others can only dream of.

I can celebrate the fact that the universe made him possible in the first place. No sense lamenting anything else.

1 comment:

Evey said...

My mum passed away in Nov 1996. 17 years. Crazy. You're so right, we certainly are never given enough moments with those we love. We never realize it at the time. After they are gone is when you see it but then it's clearly too late. Love and cherish when you can. All too fast it will be gone.