It has been nearly four and a half years since the last time I spoke to my dad. I know, weird anniversary to note. I'm noting it because it's been on my mind recently and because it's my blog and I'll write what I want. So ha.
About a week before he died, my dad called me asking about a church friend of theirs who had been in the hospital in Dallas. Her husband had had no where to stay and no money so even though we weren't exactly close to the hospital, he stayed in our guest room. He didn't have a change of clothes so Austin loaned him some while I did his laundry and he was able to get a shower for the first time in a few days. He'd been sleeping in her room with her but she sent him on to us when they found out we were offering him a room. I hadn't seen the couple in a few days, but Mom and Dad hadn't heard from them in a while and I was the last known contact, so Dad called me.
And I'm so glad I did. I kind of wish I hadn't picked up the phone, though. If I hadn't picked up the phone, I'd have had a voicemail to listen to later. Though in retrospect, I may have delayed the healing process by obsessively listening to it...so maybe it's a good thing I answered the phone.
Our last conversation was brief. Had I heard anything about them? No. Did he stay just one night or more? Just the one. OK, well, they were at a church function and he had to go. He'd talk to me later. "I love you." "I love you too."
"I love you."
Do you know how awesome it is that my father's last words to me were "I love you"? I never for a second of my life doubted my father's love for me. EVER. I didn't really go through the rebellious teenager phase where no one loved me or understood me or cared about me...because my father told me every single day that he loved me. I would be walking down the hall, sitting at dinner, riding in the car, anything, and he would say "Guess what?" and we'd respond, even though we knew what, "What?" and he'd exclaim "I love you!" like it was the first time we'd ever heard it. If we responded "You love me" he'd say "Oh, so you know. Good." Once I said "Chicken butt" and he laughed before saying "No, I love you!"
He was like that. He was goofy and short tempered and forgetful the last ten years of his life, but that was OK. Because he loved us.
... OK, so maybe it wasn't ALWAYS OK. He drove us crazy and as a teenager, having to babysit my father was...annoying, to say the least. I resented that. I never wished that he'd died instead, but I definitely wished he'd gotten tons better, not appreciating the miracle of how far he'd come.
My main regret in life, of which I have very very few, is that he never got to meet or even know about my children. Three (so far) of his grandchildren were born after he died. My sister-in-law was 7 months pregnant when he died. He knew about that child and was excited to meet him or her (we didn't find out the sex until she was born). For all I know, he would have been present at her birth if asked. Actually, no. He WOULD have been there. And he would have loved every minute of it.
The man offered to take me for my first gynecologist exam, for crying out loud. He would have been present for a baby being born. Because he loved us. (Noted: he did NOT accompany me. My love for my dad had a few limits.)
Every now and then when my boys are being especially cute or we're having an especially hard day, I wish he were around to help. Because he would have. He would have loved having us in town and being close enough to walk to the house to see my boys. He would have taken them on walks and read them stories. Because he loved them. Or he would have. I chose to use the present tense. Makes me feel better.
In small ways, Asher and Elijah know their Granddad. His picture is around the house, his owls are in their room, his elephant jokes and owl collection inspired their animal collections started for them before they were born.
Asher, somehow, knows who he is. I've told him a few times, but not recently and not as often as I should. And yet, the other day, he was climbing on stuff and brought me a picture frame and said "This your daddy." No question, no doubt, this was Mommy's daddy. I told him yes, that was my daddy. He nodded and studied the picture then asked "Where your daddy go?" How to explain that to a 2-almost-3 year old? I said "Well he died. It's like going to sleep for a very long time. He won't ever wake up but it's OK. We'll see him again and he's always with us." He nodded again, said OK and went to put the picture back on the shelf.
Maybe I shouldn't have used sleep as a description for death because now he's adamant that people have to wake up when he wants them to...that or he could just be behaving as a two year old behaves. He doesn't freak out when we're sleeping, just pats a hand or shoulder or whatever he can reach and commands you to wake up.
This wasn't a recent picture of us. It was an old one. I was probably two or three. Yet Asher still knew it was me and the man who's lap I was in was my Daddy. It's one of my favorite pictures of us and it sat on his computer for a year before he died. We'd framed it for the wedding and he liked it so much I gave it to him. And now I have it back. And it will always be up somewhere for people to see because he loved me. And I loved him.