My father died in a trucking accident when I was 14. He left behind me, my two younger sisters – Sarah (10) and Rebecca (7), my mom, his parents, and his brothers and sisters.
I let most Father’s days pass by me, without much thought other than a few silent words to my dad. After all, I don’t have my dad here to gush over. This year, though, he is on my mind constantly, even more so than usual. It could have to do with the fact that I’m 39…the same age he was when he died. Here is what I want to say to him on this Father’s Day:
You are so missed. I think about you all the time, and to this day, I can’t talk or think about you without my chest feeling like it’s under a ton of bricks. I think that’s the weight of grief. You leaving us was so abrupt, and it was during a time in my life that I was miserable. For that, I am sorry. 14 is a hard age. I was sad and confused. You were a rock, though, and I always felt safe with you.
What I remember most about you is that you worked SO HARD. I don’t even know how you had it in you. I have to tell you that many people have asked me throughout the years how I did what I did in college – being in NYC with the babies. I have no answer, really, other than that you worked so hard and got up every morning at the crack of dawn to go pick up your haul and head out to deliver yet another load in yet another city. How could I do anything different? Ophelia and Dakota’s dad always told me that an image he couldn’t get out of his mind was me pushing them in the snow in Brooklyn one winter day, so that I could take them to the babysitter and go in to Barnard College for my classes. “Why didn’t you just stay home that day?”, he later asked me. I remember being confused. “It was never an option”, I said. I learned that from you, dad.
Taking the easy route was never an option with you. You worked so hard. I know you had other dreams than just being a truck driver. You told me you wanted to be a teacher. You would have been an awesome teacher, dad! I think it’s awesome that you saved enough money to buy your own semi, though! 7122 – Commercial Carrier Corporation – CCC. I’ll never forget it. They’re still out there, dad. I see the CCC fairly often. But none of the cabs look like yours – silver and big and beautiful, with colored swooshes. You worked from pre-dawn til dusk. I remember you’d often go to Jacksonville – where I live now. Where did you drive, dad? What loads did you deliver? I know that West Palm Beach was another place you’d often deliver loads to. That was where the accident was – where you died. What were you trying to deliver there?
Dad, I remember that morning. The last morning you had. I remember your alarm clock going off at 4am. You were supposed to get up to start your truck run. I remember waking up to the alarm clock and being too tired to go into your room to make sure you were awake, like I often did. I don’t know if that was survivor guilt making me have that memory , or if it really happened. But, I often think of what would have happened if I had been there to make sure you weren’t late for your run. I’m sorry, dad. I know I didn’t have control and that this was beyond me, but I’m still sorry. I wish I could have been there for you.
Dad, you were also playful. I’m not quite sure how, since you worked such long hours and took care of the three of us, but you had the best sense of humor!
Dad, there are so many memories I have. Mostly, this Father’s Day, I want you to know that YOU ROCKED at being my father. Even though you left me when I was at a terrible, pushing-back age, I listened to every word you said. I remember them all now.
You’ll be happy to know that I have lots of joy in my life. I have four beautiful children, a loving partner, and great friends and family. I try to walk through life causing no harm, and bringing joy to people. I learned that from you. You cared so much about everyone and were so sincere. I want to honor you and I try to walk through life in a way that would make you proud. I am also a ridiculously positive person – I have an ability to pretty much always look at the bright side of things. I think it’s because I’m a survivor. I just know that I got that trait from you.
I know you can see the rest of us – Sarah and her beautiful brood of chirren 😉 Becky and how beautiful she is, my mom and how hard she works making us feel loved by feeding us copious amount of food. Your mom and dad, and how grandma is busy at 92 making quilts for all her great-grandchildren, and how grandpa pops up on Facebook to keep it real and admonish us for not calling grandma enough 😉 I know you see all that and I hope it makes you smile. We’re always your family.
You are loved, dad. You are missed. I’m not sure what I believe about heaven. But, I do feel your presence from time to time. I wish you were here so that I could share my life with you – to show you how I turned out. That I’m ok! That I made you proud.
Anyways, dad. I think I’d like to write to you from time to time if that’s ok. This feels really awesome. I know you’re out there. I know you can see how I turned out. I know you love me, mom, Becky, Sarah, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Marley, Uncle Kurt, Aunt Laura, Uncle Tim, and all of your grandchildren that you never got to meet. I hope you’ve been able to spend time with your brother, Chris. To comfort him and surround him with love. You know what, dad? We love you, too. Your memory is kept alive. And I know you’re out there somewhere to sense and understand that.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad! My present to you is to keep trying to make you proud. That’s so important to me. Please know that you were a fine specimen of a human being and that I wouldn’t be me, without you in my life to shape me for 14 years. You’re always my dad, and I hope beyond hope that I am able to connect with you again one day. Until then, I’ll write letters.
PS. To keep it light-hearted, I have to end by posting this old Olan Mills photo of us. Can we submit this to Awkward Family Photos? Why is Sarah so prayerful and the rest of us just oblivious?