January 13th, 2011

Bruce, Caroline

Dad's Not Coming Home

Back in the mid-eighties, my brother's hockey team and a high school team from Quebec did an exchange. As part of that exchange, my dad was a chaperone, so when the team went to Quebec, Dad went with them.

I remember at the time missing my dad terribly. I was so very excited knowing that Dad would be home again soon, and I planned to be right there when he was.

On May 3, 2001, Dad left again. Instead of leaving from an airport, he left from a hospital room. And instead of being excited about the fact that he was coming back soon, I had to come to terms with the fact that this would be the last time I saw my dad on earth. I would touch his hand in the coffin a few days later, but that wasn't Dad. Dad had left, and that was all there was to it.

I don't know what brings this back to mind periodically. After almost ten years now, theory says this should be easier, but it's not. The grief is as powerful, as complete, as all-consuming now as it ever was, all that's really changed is my ability to mask it.

Every tme this happens, I feel the need to write about it, which is why you're reading this now and wondering if I'll ever just move on and get over it. The answer? No, I suspect I never will get over it. Move on? Certainly. Aside from these occasional visits back to the memory of the man who played such a huge role in shaping me, I've moved on with my life. Outwardly, things are back to normal, though inwardly always exists the feelings of that young boy waiting excitedly for Dad to come home.

But he's not coming home. No, he's not. I'll have to wait until I can go and join him, and that time isn't of my choosing.

My feelings have fluctuated over the years. In the beginning, the Dad of my memories could do no wrong. He was a larger-than-life perfect human being who could go anywhere, do anything. Over the course of the next ten years, I swung over a little to the other extreme, and I remembered the mistakes he'd made, the balls he'd dropped, the times he had failed me. My love for him did not diminish during this time, not one bit, though I found myself angry that I had not confronted him on these things.

My feelings have since moderated. I see Dad as the human being he was: a very wise, loving, caring person, perhaps the best example of a true Christian I have known, but yet a man who had flaws just like the rest of us. I think this is the healthy way to see him. Will it fluctuate in the future? Probably, yes. But that's where I'm at right now.

I also think of the things he did which annoyed me. I know now that he sometimes deliberately annoyed me a little bit. His goal was to teach me tolerance and to not be bothered by minor irritants. That fact annoyed me when I realized it, so I'm not so sure if it worked. But I think of the little silly songs he'd sing, and his unique vocabulary ... not profane, no one in the world was less profane than he, but he had a unique repertoire of words and expressions. I fear I have inherited this. But I'd give anything to hear his quirky expressions again. Anything.

Why id he have to go? I don't know. Certainly, he deserved it. The illness that had been tormenting his body for so long was far more than he deserved. But it doesn't change the fact that the selfish part of me wants my dad back, desperately wants him back. Like the boy I once was, waiting excitedly for my dad to come home after what seemed an interminable trip to Quebec, I stand at the door of life, longing for his return, a return which the man I now am know isn't going to happen. So I step sadly away from that door, walk gloomily back to my place, and on I go.