Five years without you is too long. One day without you, really, is too long, but five years? Much too long. You said you didn’t want to go because you’d miss me too much. Well, I miss you too much. Five years is too long.
Five years ago, my dad died.
It still feels weird to say that, because he was so larger than life to me. As a kid, I shared a love with him for our backyard pool, and our time playing together was special to me. As a teenager he didn’t treat me like anything was different as I was growing up and figuring myself out. We went on vacations, just me and him, and we stayed close. He supported me when he needed to, always sensing when something would be good for me or not. He introduced me to my first real job – a summer spent volunteering at University Medical Center full time while my mom worked down the street. I didn’t get paid, but man that was work. I loved it though, and it landed me a real internship the following summer, all because my dad brought home a paper from work one day and thought it’d be a good experience for me.
I listened to my dad. As a kid, he was this sort of oracle I looked to for guidance when I needed it most. He was opinionated and wasn’t afraid to let you know his thoughts on a matter. I used to think I was a lot like my mom, and I do have many of her traits, but I’m a lot like my dad. He taught me some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my life, including standing up for yourself and not taking shit from anyone, no matter who’s dishing it out.
My dad wasn’t afraid to call people out on their bullshit, and it’s one of the things I admire most about him. He didn’t pull any punches. Sure, he could overstep with the lack-of-filter thing, but he mostly spoke up when it was right. He was smart, and I was always amazed at how he was like a walking encyclopedia of medical knowledge, pharmacology, and just general information about life. He also had this unbreakable spirit, something that served him well and created magic in his life up until the day he died. After my mom died, the relationship that blossomed between my dad and I was special as we navigated a new world together.
I’d always been close to both of my parents, but my mom used to say I was different around my dad, that I treated him differently than I did anyone else in the world. She used to say that my voice even changed a little, that it lost any edge and sweetened up when I spoke to him. I used to laugh when she’d say it, and I don’t think I ever admitted it to her, but she was right. I knew it, she knew it. My dad and anyone within a 50-mile radius probably knew it. I can’t explain that x-factor thing, but he was my dad. To me, he was larger than life. He was an imperfect man but my love for him was endless and boundless. To say I loved him unconditionally despite his shortcomings wouldn’t do justice to the way I feel about my dad.
Through him, I learned what it truly meant to give of oneself to another, to love them when they’re down, and treat someone with dignity who had fallen down. He taught me so much about life during our time together. Instead of turning our backs on each other when the going got rough, we formed an unbreakable bond and trudged through the mud together, often coming out the other side better than how we’d started the journey. His last adventure taught me how much I could love someone and how much my heart could break over and over again. As I’m writing this, it’s breaking again, as it will do until my time is up on this earth.
I’m thankful for the grief, though, because it just means one thing. It means that I love him. No past tense, but fully in the present. I love him, present tense. And because of that, while five years is much too long to be without him, his love is still here. And while, yes, I do miss him too much, I’m thankful for those feelings because they remind me just how strong and real love can be when it’s given freely and unconditionally.
To my dad, I love you and I am celebrating you today with good food and lots of memories. Five years is just too long.