Have you hugged your dad today? Yeah, it’s corny, but just do it. I can’t.
Dad died in his sleep one afternoon in 2007. He told Mom he didn’t feel good, went to the bedroom to take a nap and never woke up.
This isn’t a tale of deep regret over things left unresolved. Dad and I had a good relationship. But there’s always more to say, more to show, more to share.
We didn’t see each other as much in my adulthood as I had hoped we would. Soon after I graduated from Ohio State and got my first job, Dad retired. They sold their house in Lima and moved to Tennessee, where Mom grew up. While Lima was about an hour and a half from my job – an easy after-work drive to and fro – Tennessee was about six and a half hours one way.
Since I worked six days a week, that left vacation weeks as the primary visits. Not conducive to driving to the house with a busted something and asking, “Dad, how do I fix this?”
A few weeks ago I was working on a home demolition project that required ropes and knots. I suck at knots, which is a shame because Dad spent countless summer hours at Boy Scout events teaching Scouts how to tie all kinds of knots. Being a Cub Scout dropout, I never got knots, much less knowing which was the right knot to use.
Standing on a ladder with rope ends in each hand, I wished I could make a quick call to get knot advice. Maybe a few things were left unresolved.
We talked often, but it’s not the same as being there. Mom was the better communicator of the three of us; Dad and I were pretty “guy” about it and weren’t as good at keeping up.
When I’d visit it felt right. Dad was always doing something – gardening, some kind of handyman thing, fixing someone’s clock, splitting wood, helping out on Grandma’s farm – and I’d join him. It was good.
Dad died in the fall, and I don’t remember the last time I saw him. There’s probably a photo from the last visit (I tend to take a lot of photos), but I don’t have access to those anymore. The last time I talked with him was probably on a Sunday, a routine we set up when I left for college and continued through the years.
If Dad had lived, he’d have a smartphone (probably an Android, probably a budget one), and he’d be sending me Snaps of tomatoes and Mom rolling her eyes because he’s taking vegetable selfies. He’d be texting with me and the kids. He loved technology as much as he loved canning produce from the garden and caning chairs.
It doesn’t really matter why someone’s not here anymore. Mom’s death was the opposite of Dad’s, dying slowly as dementia dug in and bones degenerated. One gone fast, one gone slow.
Sometimes things just happen. It’s not your fault, it’s not their fault. It just happens. And they’re gone.
Hug your dad.
Gary Presley is pagination director for AIM Media Midwest. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.