That was the word the doctor used when he walked into the waiting room to inform me of my father’s death.
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.
Anyways, somehow 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.
I was 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 this becoming a man thing on my own.
In retrospect, 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. I thought we would have together, expired.
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 would struggle mightily to describe, but that’s not how I want to look upon it today.
What I want to try to do today, Father’s Day, is instead focus not on the 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 may be, by simply being alive you have millions of opportunities today. Millions of opportunities with your dads (or anyone) 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 some of those things everyday, because one day you won’t get to choose. One day, all those opportunities will expire.
In fact, on my birthday this year, 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).
I tell you, that was a not so fun thing to realize this year, 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 really.
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 little bit writing this), that’s still not what I want to focus on today. What I want to focus on today and everyday is what that day back in 1999 represents for me now – perspective. That it’s because of all that that I get to approach my life now with the mindset that I have today: to not let any opportunity go to waste, and to always make memories; because, quite frankly, I struggle to hold on to the ones I used to have now.
And that, my friends, is the worst of it all when things expire. That with each day that passes by my father’s memory starts to fade away even more. That even those joyous moments I used to easily 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 fully replicate the memory of him enough to do so anymore.
I even realized when I watched a home movie of us this last year 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!
Love you Dad. Give your dads an extra hug for me this Father’s Day.