Today would have been my dad’s 71st birthday. My dad, in spite of battling terminal lung cancer, had only one goal towards the end of his life, reach 70 years of age, a major accomplishment for those on the paternal side of my family. We are not known for our longevity. But in spite of this factor, it is hard to imagine how much longer that he would have lived, regardless of our family history, had he not smoked for 55 years.
It is funny. Age has always been something that I have never really thought about, whether for myself, family, or friends. It never dawns on me until perhaps a birthday is announced, or you hear about the age mentioned in an obituary. But I am sitting her, trying to come to terms that my Dad was 70 when he passed.
I missed most of my childhood with my father, a decision that I would later learn in life was his. I never asked, nor will I, either parent, what happened with their divorce, what caused it, etc.. It was in my twenties that I would learn more importantly two things. He thought about my sister and I all of the time, and wished things could have been different. My Dad recognized that he missed a lot in our lives by the decisions that he made.
While he felt immense guilt for his actions, he was glad for the second chances with us, especially in the role of grandfather. And it is in that capacity, that I told my father, he could make up for lost time with me, through my daughters. And he took every opportunity he could, whether it was lifting the “oreo” shaped cookie jar down for Madison to grab a favorite snack, or making Emmalie laugh. Yes Dad, you more than made up for the time that we lost.
It was his conscience that helped to guide me through my divorce and dealing with custody and visitation with my daughters in the early stages of his cancer battle. My father was accepted my decision to file for the divorce, and the reason behind it. I say accepted, because “supporting” the decision was not his place. The divorce was between my estranged wife and I. His concern was for those of my daughters. Knowing and remembering what he carried his whole life, he clearly did not want me to make the same decisions that he made. My Dad did not want me to wait like he did until my children were in their twenties to let them know about the absence from their lives.
My Dad left it up to me, to deal with my divorce. There was no judgment, and as my estranged wife and I dealt with a crisis with our youngest daughter, my Dad upon visiting handled himself neutrally in the presence of my estranged wife. And that is exactly how he handled himself to his last living breath, concern for the children, not for the battle between the parents.
It is his example that I am living my life by these days. No matter what has happened throughout this lengthy process (still far from being over I have been warned), no matter the interference, no matter the legal issues being thrown at me, my daughters will never be taken away from me because I will never let them think for one minute that I have ever forgotten them, or not think about them.
I cannot imagine how my father felt all those years, over 15 years, but it must have been Hell for him. It has been less than a year for me since custody was set, and I miss my daughters so much. I do hope for a legal resolution soon, so that I can get back to spending time with my daughters again.
There are so many things that I miss about my Dad in the short time since he passed. I miss his encouragement, but I live by the memories of it every day, to take the high road through this whole process. While my children are old enough now to remember certain trauma in their lives, it is all the more important to get these things resolved. It is difficult to understand why everything is happening the way that it has, but as long as I can get things straightened out, the time lost, though never to be gotten back, will hopefully not be too much.