An Open Letter to my Dad
Pretty grim looking family pic, huh? Too bad it’s the only recent one I have of me and my dad. I wish my big sis could’ve been there with us to see him one final time. Maybe she was unable to make it out of town on such short-notice to see him after his stroke. At any rate, dear old dad is gone..sleeping in his grave as the old folx say. I hadn’t physically seen him in 17yrs before this day. The stroke completely paralyzed him. He will never be able to reach out and hug me or his grandkids, whom he met for the first time today while on his deathbed.
My parents split up when I was 7, and my dad went back to Alabama. I know I’m not the first to say this, but it felt as if my dad “divorced” us at the same time that he split with my mom. The most poignant memory occurred when I was 12yrs old. I had been wondering why my dad hadn’t called for my birthday that year. Finally, after about a month of not hearing from him, he called. I remember being upset because he didn’t call for Christmas either–which was just two days before my birthday. When I asked him why he didn’t call, he simply said “I guess I forgot.” Unbelievable. Hearing that crap crushed me. How could a dad forget his baby’s birthday? His own birthday is just three days after mine! Mike Baisden would say that’s some Fragernackle Bull! But as a 12yr old I pretty much said “forget choo, forgot choo, wish I never thought about choo.” I think I decided to bury all the emotion I had left for him at that time.
On My Own
After high school, I joined the Air Force and spent eight months training in Mississippi. Since I was so close to Alabama, my mom called my dad and told him about my training. To my surprise, he and my aunts drove to see me. We spent the day together. It was a tad bit awkward, but cool. I remember talking to him on the phone probably a good 5 times or so after that reunion up until his death. I am not kidding, or exaggerating here. My dad just never reached out to his kids. This all struck me as odd, because my mom and aunts always spoke of how much he loved us. His actions just said something else. I never went out of my way to remain in contact with him, because I was used to living life without him. Of course in hindsight, it saddens that my kids never got to establish a relationship with their biological grandfather. Thankfully, they’re very close with my moms current husband, so have many memorable experiences with a grandfather.
So the last good memory I have of my dad is of him in a hospital bed with tubes; but with enough courage, emotion and strength to release a single tear after he realized who I was. He couldn’t speak, but I knew he recognized me. More recently I’ve begun to speculate over what he may have said to me if he could talk. Perhaps “I love you,” “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you,” “Please forgive me” …what? Or maybe seeing my daughter, who was 6 at the time and the spittin’ image of me, caused him to reflect back 30yrs in the blink of an eye. I don’t remember exactly all I said to him that day in the hospital. I just remember giving him a kiss on the top of his head, which still had dirt and other particles in it from where his head hit the pier when he fell; but “God made dirt, and the dirt don’t hurt!”
You know, I NEVER called my dad “dad,” even when he was acting like one. So dear Earnest, Rest In Peace. Now if I could only figure out how to cry for him now that he’s gone for good…