You've been gone almost two years now. It still hasn't really sunk in that I won't see you again, or get a hug from you anymore. I miss making you laugh on the phone. I miss being able to ask you questions when I'm having a grammar moment. I don't automatically reach for the phone now when those moments happen, but I still haven't quite let go of the belief that you are out there and I just haven't seen you in too long.
When I haven't seen someone in a long time I'm usually a little surprised when we are reunited that there are details I forgot--bits of mannerisms or scents or motions that go with a person that you don't hold onto well at a distance. I'm still adjusting to the idea that my perceptions of you will not be updated or renewed, but I'm left with whatever I already have. It's not enough, but it will have to be.
What would I tell you today, this Father's Day without you again, if I could call?
Well, it's been a rough year, dad. The roughest I've ever known, which is saying something since the year you died left me gutted. What would you think of our struggle? I'm not sure. I imagine parts of it would leave you baffled and frightened much like it has us. You would probably inadvertently say something upsetting without meaning to, just because it's hard to avoid in a situation where solutions are elusive and people are feeling fragile. But you would also have said something surprising by now, because you were never predictable, and something that would have made me feel a little better. I wish I knew what that was.
You would have sent me all the articles both relevant and tangential. Speaking of articles, on my birthday I opened one of the old packets you gave me, but now I'm not sure what to do with it. I enjoyed going through all of it, but most of it's not worth saving except for the fact that you touched it, so now I can't quite throw any of it out. It's in a pile on my nightstand like a messy little shrine to your old desk. Maybe I'll just put it back in the envelope and mark it as read and put it back with the others. I'm not sure.
I'm not sure of much anymore, really. I've had thoughts this past year that shocked me. Maybe some of the ways I've been left numb will help me cope. You'd have loved me regardless. At least I know that.
Let's see... You'd have liked our new kitchen. That was a big expense and inconvenience, but worth it. I have that little etching you did in college hanging by the basement door so I can see it every time I use the pantry. I think you'd have liked all our design choices, and I can imagine you sitting in the breakfast nook with your paper enjoying the amount of room and light compared to in the old one. I'm sorry I'll never get to cook you something nice in my new kitchen.
Ian's Army work is going well. He's a Lt Colonel now, and has a job he enjoys involving trains (which you would know is a good fit for his talents). He was approved for a higher level of secret clearance, and that process lasted for a couple of years and required Army people to interview different people in his life in person, which was weird. They never talked to me or anyone who knew him well. They contacted neighbors we haven't known for long, or college friends we haven't seen in forever, and asked questions that one of my friends who was interviewed said could have been answered better with a Google search. What if they'd interviewed you, dad? That would have been highly entertaining I'm sure.
I think you would have really enjoyed hearing Quinn read Latin now. He's getting really good at it. He's probably to a place where your attempts to teach him French would have finally stuck. We have a New Yorker cartoon you sent us inside a pocket of his folder that's there to amuse me when we go to Latin. It's the one with the guy in a toga and painted nails and it's captioned "Veni, Vidi, Vici, Mani, Pedi." Quinn doesn't quite get it still, but I picture him getting a smile out of it in the future when he's sorting through all those old Latin notes one day. His hair is long enough that he's frequently mistaken for a girl, and it makes me think of your "hair file." Wasn't that your first completed binder? You said you started collecting those articles around the time I was born on how insane people were being about men with long hair, and you wanted to document the ridiculousness for me to look back on later and see what the world was like. Quinn's hair is too long for my taste, but it's his hair and I'm used to it. (I just don't like how much harder it is to see his face, but that's supposed to be what moms say.) Quinn knows the flags of all the countries in the world and his geography knowledge is so much better than mine it's embarrassing. He likes watching commercials, which is weird and cracks me up. Piano and violin go fine when he remembers to practice and less fine when he doesn't. He's a lot like his dad, but also a lot like you.
Mona's artistic talent continues to be astonishing. I wish so much you could see the work she's doing. She seems more about the process than anything else, so there are lots of abandoned sketches lying around that taught her whatever she needed to know before she moved on, which is how you really learn. She doesn't treat any one piece as precious, she's just always evolving. Her ability to visualize and capture her imaginary creatures at various angles amazes me. She doesn't talk about using her art as a part of any kind of future education or career, I just hope she keeps doing it.
Aden's grown into such a lovely young woman, dad. She's taller than I am now! She seems to have gotten through her first year of high school unscathed (or as unscathed as anyone can get through ninth grade). We're signing her up for driver's ed this summer. Can you believe it? I remember when you first held her in your arms in our living room at Christmastime when she was only a few weeks old, and you cried and asked how it was possible to love someone you just met so very much. She's moved by many things as you were and cries as readily. Academically she would frustrate you the same way I did, but she'll be fine just as I was fine.
How am I doing? I don't know anymore. Work is good. I love my job and am glad I get to do what I do. I've been doing a lot of volunteer repair work for the public schools because those kids deserve more than they get and it makes me feel better to know they are learning on instruments that are working properly. So that's good, and I feel like you'd be proud of me for that. My health is okay except for things related to stress. I'm frustrated that the two things I most want to be doing for myself--writing and building--are completely thwarted at every turn. I need to make a plan to actively protect my time for doing those things, but life doesn't make it easy. I wish I could let certain things go so I could have room to breathe, but I'm not able to give myself permission to do that yet. Maybe someday. At the moment I just feel like my best isn't good enough and it's hard.
I wish I could call you today. I miss your hugs. I miss the way I used to snuggle with you on the couch when I was a kid. I wish I could explain to my own kids that time is short, and the snuggles we share now are more important than they seem in the moment.
Happy Father's Day, dad. I'm making a Boston Cream Pie today for Ian, who is also a great dad. Wish you could have a slice with us.
I love you. Talk to you again soon.