That was the word the doctor used when he walked into the waiting room to inform me of my father’s death – expired. All I could think was, “What, is he some kind of fucking car battery or something?”. Expired, what the fuck?! I mean I know it’s gotta be a shitty part of your job to have to inform someone that they just lost a loved one; but damn, whatever list of words you’ve compiled to use in that scenario needs to be shortened by at least one.
Fucking expired. (SMH)
Somehow though that word managed to bypass the doctor’s mental check list, leave his mouth, and enter my ears on November 26, 1999. On November 26, 1999, when I was just fifteen years old and had just spent an amazing Thanksgiving with my dad, I found my father lying on the kitchen floor. Fifteen years old when I watched the EMT’s try hopelessly to revive him (after I had done so minutes earlier). Fifteen when all of a sudden I would have to try and figure out the rest of this becoming a man thing on my own.
So maybe the doctor’s description wasn’t so far off after all (even if it was extremely cold), because on that night of my father’s death, his life and all the would be experiences, lessons, celebrations, shared moments, stories, hugs, etc. reached an end date. I could no longer have him or any of them.
I would go on and on here now and tell you about what kind of man he was, how awesome a dad he was, how his death affected me, or a great many other things that I’m sure I will struggle mightily to describe, but that’s not how I want to look upon it. Not yet, not today.
What I want to try to do today instead (Father’s Day), or any day really, is to focus on not death and the ending of things, but on life and the opportunity that exists within. That no matter what the circumstances given in our lives, by simply being alive you have millions of opportunities everyday. Millions of opportunities to make experiences, to share a laugh, to ask a question, to give/get a hug, to make a memory, etc. And that it’s important to at least try to do those things, because one day you won’t get to choose. All those opportunities will expire.
It was on my birthday this year in fact, that I realized I have now been alive longer without my dad than with. That more of my life has been lived without those opportunities with him than with. That more of my memories don’t include him than do (although I can see him in everything I do).
That was a really odd thing for me to realize, and an even stranger thing for me to realize now how much of my life has been changed because of that one moment (all of it). To think how many things I’ve experienced that he didn’t get to see or hear about, how many amazing people I know now that he never got to meet, how he never got to see my sister get married or meet her children, and how he never got to see all his love and support pay off in the man I am today.
But as sad as that is (I cried a bit writing it), that’s not what I want to focus on. What I want to focus on today and everyday is what that represents for me – perspective. That it’s because of all that that I get to approach my life now with the mindset I have today to not let any opportunity go to waste to make a memory (because of the many I struggle to hold on to).
And that is the worst of it all when things expire. That with each day that passes by my father’s memory starts to fade even more. That those joyous moments I used to recall on command, now don’t even begin to register. That I don’t even dream as much about him these days, because I don’t think my mind can still replicate the memory of him completely. And last year I even realized when I watched a home movie of us that I had totally misremembered his voice. That the voice I had kept in my head all these years was actually an octave or two lower than what it really was.
But once again, that’s not the point I want you to take home with you today or any day, because what’s even worse than losing a memory is not even making one to begin with.
And that’s the point. The point is, yeah, death sucks; life sucks sometimes, and it’s hard not to think about all the things that happen to us in our lives, but we are alive, and with life there is opportunity.
Don’t let your opportunities expire.
Happy Father’s Day everyone!
Love you Dad. Give your dads an extra hug for me this Father’s Day.