Flash back nine years ago to this week. It’s January 14, 2006, to be exact, and I’m sitting on our living room couch. dark blue. It’s evening time, and I have come back from a day of enjoying the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in theaters. The phone rings, my mom answers, and what happens next I have been prepared for, and yet, not.
My dad, three years prior (2003), after my parents split, and we moved across the country, leaving my dad in Utah, was diagnosed with advanced cancer. Being a smoker, he had developed since about 1999, lung and throat cancer, as well as internal skin cancer, which is a very rare form of skin cancer. Once my dad found out, he made the executive decision to move closer to his siblings on the east coast in order to get assistance with hospital visits, including the beginning of chemotherapy. I was eleven when this happened.
Back to the blue couch. My dad had been enduring chemo for quite a while, and though there had been some positive changes, there was also negative circumstances regarding his health. That phone call would be the last time I would ever talk to my dad. Not many people are given the opportunity to say what really needs to be said in a time when life is limited, but my family and I were fortunate enough to pass on our love and prayers as my dad became unresponsive. I knew on the 14th that it was the last time I would speak with my dad, and tears streamed down my face. The following day confirmed what we already knew. My dad had passed on.
Being at such a young age during this major series of changes in my life (13 years old), left a lot of wondering and questions. My dad’s health had always interfered with his lifestyle, which made it hard to really know who he was. Until this past year, anyway.
I have been on a mission this past year; a mission that a majority of my family doesn’t understand, except those that are on the receiving end. I have been on a journey to discover who my dad was; to learn about his childhood, his likes and dislikes, what made him him. We were never in really good contact with my dad’s side of the family, especially after the divorce, but I always kept in touch with my grandma through snail mail. This past year, I asked my grandma a hard question to ask. I asked her first if she could provide me with the contact information for my aunts and uncles, and two, for her to tell me everything about my dad. It has been a hard journey, filled with so many different emotions, but it has offered me understanding, love, and some closure. I won’t go in to the details of my parents’ divorce, but I will say that there were a lot of questions, that even today, are unanswered. But, through what I have been discovering, I have been able to move beyond those questions, doubts, concerns, and uncertainties.
It has been like a real-life investigation, or, more-so, I have met someone new. Even better, I have also built up some many relationships within my family, and have loved every minute of it. I am still learning a lot about my dad, and his life, but here are a few of my favorite things that I have found out.
1. My dad has always had a kind heart (something I knew, but has been reiterated again and again). He was a gentle and loving spirit.
2. My dad use to do a radio show with one of my uncles! I never really knew where my love for music came from, except for little tidbits here and there. For example, my dad had a really nice stereo system in the living room when we were growing up, which included a turn table. He had tons of cassettes, records, and CDs. Once, my dad and I went to the fair together and we won a contest that gave us a free Earth, Wind, and Fire CD. I remember how cool it was to share something like that with my dad. I gave him the CD, but we would listen to it together. And, whenever he had to run errands, the one thing I remember the most clearly is the drive to wherever we were going, which included lots of Beatles and Beach Boys.
3. My dad was born in New York and lived there a majority of his life, but he also lived in Canada for a year and a half or so.
4. My dad loved hockey (we went to games together in Utah), and when he was younger, really wanted to play, but couldn’t because of health concerns.
5. My dad did go to college and got a degree in Business. It makes me wonder if he ever dreamed of owning his own company and becoming an entrepreneur (will be asking that question soon.).
6. My ancestors on my dad’s side of the family are pretty interesting (which has been a bi-product of learning about my dad and his family). We had an ancestor that was a seamstress for the queen of England at one point!
There are so many other things that I could tell you about that I already knew, or am discovering, and all are so precious and dear to me. Because of this journey, though, this year’s anniversary of his passing has been one of the more difficult. I have come to know him so well, but wish I could have done so when he were still on earth. I think that having a personal understanding like that is what makes it harder. That, and the major changes that have occurred in my life as of late, such as graduating college. I always wonder if he would be proud of me, but I think I know that answer.
We may not always be proud of our families, or ourselves for how we react to situations and circumstances, and I can tell you that we all have dark blotches in our pasts, and will have some in our futures. But, discovering who my dad was has taken many of those blotches away, and I am very proud to call him my dad. I also look forward to what this journey of discovery will continue to bring.
Please check out one of my latest posts here about some changes that will be taking place soon.