This past Christmas my father would have turned 100 years old. This upcoming January is the 40thanniversary of his death. Two milestones each on the opposite end of the spectrum.
My childhood Christmases had two sides to them. First, was the magical morning of seeing what Santa brought us, tearing open presents, and playing with all the toys and games.
Then, after Mom made a traditional full breakfast with hash browns and bacon, a time came when Dad told us we would have to get dressed to go to his first born’s house (from an earlier marriage) for dinner to celebrate his birthday.
I resented having to get dressed on such a wondrous day and to leave behind all my new bounty of gifts. But this was one of the few days of the year when we had to visit my half-sister and her family, wanting to please our dad.
My father loved being a father. He made sure his kids had all they could eat, had a roof over their heads, and presents on their birthdays and Christmas. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized how much a sacrifice he had to make in order to provide for us in this way.
I was the last born in my family when my Dad was age 45. Smoking leading to lung cancer shortened his life, and when I was 14 years old, shortly after turning 60, Dad died.
Losing a parent at a young age is something that a young child can’t fully get a handle on due to lack of life experience. Dad’s death was harder on my Mom, brother and sister since they lived more of their lives with him than I did.
As I’ve grown older, I think of him now and then at how he would react to certain events in my life. The memories I have of time spent with Dad seem like old TV shows I used to watch, fading with each passing year. There aren’t that many photos of him, and whenever one is discovered it’s like buried treasure. We have home movies which have few shots of him since he was the primary cameraman. There are a few reel to reel audio tapes which has his voice on it. But most precious is a note he wrote to me when we had an argument and he wanted to apologize.
Losing a parent is never easy. I have a friend in her 50s whose parents are still living well. I’ve been fatherless for four decades. However, the 14 years of life spent with my Dad have been a flame inside me that has remained lit, and I hope to continue carrying the torch of his fatherly impressions as long as I live.