It was a year ago today that I watched your life slip away as I held your hand. I remember the tears streaming down my face as your breathing slowly stopped and your heart stopped beating. I don’t know if you were conscious for it, but you had a lot of people who loved you around you saying good bye. Whenever we mention you, E is quick to remind us that “Grandpa’s love never dies” – she too held your hand and said good-bye on your last day.
You would have turned 63 this year. While the days have gotten easier to bear without you, I still miss you more than ever. A lot has happened since we last spoke.
I’m still volunteering at the fire station and next to K and the kids it’s the thing I love most in the world. I just signed up to take an EMT class, which I’m very excited about. I think you’d be proud of me that I’m excited about it because I can help make a positive impact on people’s lives. I never told you (I wish I did), but I was always impressed with how you treated other people and your drive to make the world a better place. It’s one of the reasons I want to become an EMT in the first place, to be a little more like you.
The world’s gotten a little crazy since you left. There’s been a pandemic for a novel coronavirus which I have no doubt you would have been very knowledgeable given your line of work. I was telling grandma how I would have loved to have your advice about what to do — there is so much politicization and misinformation on both sides that I know you would have been the objective voice we need to get through this. You had a lot of experience working with infectious diseases and I’m sad the world isn’t able to utilize that.
But K and I and the kids have been making the best of it. We still try to make it outside as much as possible, I’ve taken up drawing, and am attempting to teach myself the ukulele. I love working from home because I get to see the kids so much more; they make my career struggles worth it. I was always a little jealous that you found your purpose in life so early on, but now I’m starting to realize that the key to your success was the fact that you were so passionate about helping (people and animals). While I feel like the path to my life’s work is slowly starting to make sense, I still would have loved to hear your words of support. I still remember the phone call out of the blue right before you were diagnosed with cancer. K and E and I were driving back from a state park as part of a mental health day I had taken after a bad experience at work. You don’t know how much that phone call meant to me. You were always there for me when I didn’t know I needed it.
We bought our first rental property, which is exciting. While investing wasn’t your forte, I am glad you and mom both taught me and ER to live below our means and appreciate what we have. Because of you my goal in life is to create enough financial freedom where I can focus my time on my family and on helping others. If there’s one thing your death has taught me its that time really is precious. Every moment I can dedicate to others is another step in living a good life.
K is doing okay, though I sometimes worry about her anxiety. This whole quarantine thing has hit her particularly hard and while I know she is a resilient woman I know being inside all the time with the kids is starting to take a toll on her. It makes me want to move out to the country somewhere so she doesn’t have so much to worry about. But she also thrived when she discovered some barred owls living in the trees next to our condo. She followed them for like 8 weeks straight as she watched the baby owls learn how to walk and fly and hunt. I’m trying to convince her to be a nature photographer — not for the money, but just for the pure joy she gets taking pictures of the animals. It’s a wonderful sight to see.
You’d be amazed at how much E and V have grown. E is 4 now and has an amazing imagination. You would love the songs she sings and the letters she “writes” and the stories she tells. She’s taking swim lessons and is slowly getting comfortable on her bike. She’s also the spitting image of you in her taste for bad dad jokes. She makes me feel like the world’s best comedian. V is now a year and a half old and likes to get into everything and anything. Even when we put stuff out of his reach he manages to find a way to get it. E likes to dress him up in her clothes and play “Anna and Elsa” with him. His favorite toy is the toy horse that ER gave him, which he is riding constantly. He’s also started talking, though his favorite words are limited to “mama”, “dada”, and “echo” (the key phrase we use for our Amazon Echo Dot).
ER and I have been taking care of mom, but as strong as she is she doesn’t need much taking care of. She’s still walking a lot and it’s been nice having ER close by, as she’s basically adopted his dog. I know she misses you so much, probably even more than I do. You guys had a beautiful relationship and I know she gets lonely sometimes without you. K and I try to get out every couple weeks so she can see the grand-kids, and I know that helps. But I know there’s a big hole in her heart that you used to take up.
I make sure to talk to grandma every couple weeks. I called her on Mother’s Day because I know that’s what you would have done. She turned 96 this year and is tougher than ever. We still talk about you, and I can hear her getting choked up sometimes talking about you. I can’t imagine what its like to lose a child but I do know her love for you hasn’t left with you.
ER’s doing well too. Like me I think he’s still figuring out how to make the most impact on the world that he can. He’s been working a lot at the horse rescue and I think he’d do a great job running that place. K and I still ask him lots of medical questions to keep is doctor knowledge fresh. I don’t talk to him as much as I should, especially about you. He has your reticence when it comes to talking about feelings.
I know your brothers and sisters-in-law and nieces and nephews and coworkers still miss you a lot. They are all so supportive and I continually feel so lucky to have them in my life.
There’s so much more I want to talk to you about, but at this pace I’d end up writing you a book. I’ll miss our conversations; you were always so good about asking me about my life even when you were struggling with the cancer. You were a wonderful man, Dad, and I will continue to keep you in my heart.
I am a Father, Husband, Cowboy Philosopher, Volunteer Firefighter, and Professional Dilettante. I am nothing and I am everything. But when it comes to our relationship: I only wish you wonder and happiness.