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Goodbye Father’s Day, Goodbye Jesse

Every Father’s Day brings the same feelings. He’s been gone thirty years, died when we were both too young.

I didn’t get a chance to say, goodbye or thank you or what do you think about this or that or what was the war really like? The ignorance and arrogance of youth kept me from paying more attention to and time with a wonderful man. Take heed all ye youth: you only get one chance at this father/child thing. And the ironic and cruel thing about metamorphosing from child to adult is that it’s not until you become one that you can truly appreciate what your old, un-cool, and over demanding parents were all about. Their struggles in navigating not only their own lives but yours as well. Health, education, relationships—oy-vey the relationships—the mortgage payments, the doctor bills, and sibling rivalry. Maybe that’s why I don’t have children of my own.

Life is unfair. That’s a Universal Law. It stinks but it’s true. If only we could go back like in a game of Whiffleball and call “Do over! I wasn’t lookin’!” There are no do-overs when it comes to losing a parent but there are opportunities where we can fully engage with others. Opportunities to give the world’s greatest gift to another: to listen. To really hear them.

My father and I used to play “airplane” when I was five or six years old. Settled into the front seat of his 1960 Chevy Impala, he’d play the pilot and I was his co-pilot. Covering his hand with his mouth he’d ask the tower for permission for take off and in an instant that Chevy was flying over the neighborhood with its wheels up and wings outstretched. And at the moment when we we’re airborne, I would look over to my father, the pilot, and feel so safe and secure and happy and would then put my hand over my mouth and talk to the tower and relay that “Flight 1735 is up and away!”

A few years later I didn’t want to play “airplane” anymore. It was for “babies.” The intimacy of our relationship began to wane. My choice, not his. My father’s offers to take drives with him to the bank or the pharmacy were met with, “No thanks.” I was a long way away from metamorphosing. I had a lot of left turns to take before the news of his death came over a sixteen hundred mile telephone.

And now all these years later, wouldn’t you know it, I would jump at the chance to play “airplane.” Regret and sadness come every Father’s Day. I can’t do it over and if I could I don’t know if it would affect the outcome. I miss him dearly and so does my mother and siblings. Life is unfair and that I accept, but I don’t always like it. So, since I didn’t get a chance to say it before, Goodbye Jesse, I love you.

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