Sunday, July 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Poppa - Lessons Learned

Today is my father’s 75th birthday.  That is to say that if he were still living he would be 75.  75 is still young, really.  My father passed away 6 years ago, and he has missed out on so much in that time.  Every day, I think of my father, with varying emotions.  On certain days like Father’s day, the date of his passing, and his birthday I feel the loss a little bit more – both his loss and our loss, those he left behind.  He didn’t have to die so young.  He could have been here to enjoy his family and watch them grow, or be born for that matter. My father never met any of his grandsons.  Not my sister’s children, and not mine.  He never got to see that Grandson number one resembles him so closely at times that it makes us all shake our heads and smile at the realization.  He didn’t get to see how much grandson #2 resembles my sister so closely that at times it makes me do a double take and smile at the realization. He didn’t get to see the joy in his girl’s faces as we welcomed our son’s into this world, as we watch them grow, and protect them with all our might, as I can only assume he once did with us.  He never got to take the boys to his workshop and guide them to help him fix.  Tools are Son’s delight. I’m sure he would have loved working with Poppa.  And all I can do now to help my son to know his Poppa is to tell him stories, all the best stories I can think of.  I haven't quite figured out how to explain death to Son, but he knows that Poppa is dead, and he knows that he died because he smoked too much and it made his lungs sick.  Poppa died of cancer.  Son doesn’t know the word cancer yet.  I’m worried that he will know it all too well in years to come.  Nanna has cancer now too. The other day we had our insurance agent out to our house to set up a new policy.  He asked the typical questions about our health, and luckily Husband and I are both fairly healthy so far (surprisingly as we both grew up with heavy cigarette smoke in our homes).  And then the questions came about health issues experienced by our parents.  When he asked for dates of diagnosis, I remembered that Poppa had cancer twice, once before he died, but originally was diagnosed, treated, and cured of cancer in his mid 40’s.  Despite the whole ordeal, Poppa continued to smoke, perhaps even more heavily.  What a shame that he didn’t take the second chance that was given to him. Really, it was a gift.  The gift of life he was given gave my mother, and us girls more memories and saved us from the loss of our father early in life.   It gave my father more time to experience his young family.  My father’s poor decision to keep smoking, robbed us and our families of so much.  I will be honest and say that my father and I had a rough relationship, but I loved him and I love him still, and I am disappointed that again on his birthday I have to say a silent “Happy Birthday Poppa” instead of wrapping my arms around him and telling him he’s loved.  
The gift that the experience of losing my father has given me is that I try not to take my health for granted, nor the health of my family. Every day I (along with Husband) make decisions about our health: what our family eats, what we don’t eat, what products we use and don’t use,  and the necessity to take care of what we have on this earth.  We have a better understanding that these decisions we make play a role in making sure Son is healthy and learns to make healthy decisions. And we play a role in making sure that Son has two parents to watch him grow and explore, and become his own person with his own life experiences.  I don’t want to miss out on all that my father has missed out on, and I don’t want our son to miss out on all that I have missed out on, losing my father too early.
I have an old answering machine that is broken. I won't throw it out because it has the very last words my father spoke to me on it.  In this message his voice is broken and cracking. I can hear that he is trying not to cry,  and he tells me he loves me. It was shortly after this that I rushed to his hospital bed and sat with my family as we held his hand and watched him take his last breath. I am so glad that I have this answering machine still. I will likely listen to this message again today, to hear his voice, and to hear him say "I love you" again. I hope he hears my voice today too.
Happy Birthday Poppa. You are loved and missed.  Thank you for all that you taught me. In your words, you learned me well.


VS said...

I love this entry, beautifully written and I can feel the love that you and your dad shared in your writing. I know it wasn't always the easiest relationship but I know that your dad loved you. I have some good memories of spending time with him and your family...hugs...V

Gluten Free Mom said...

Thank you V. I really appreciate your comment. :) Hugs, Gluten Free Mom.

Cousin Lisa said...

Life is precious & we cannot take it for granted.

I remember Uncle. I remember tough times & I also remember really great times.

It must have been tough to write this. I'm sorry that Son is growing up without his Poppa. My boys too are growing up without their Grampa. It is tough wishing they could be here.

Stay strong Cousin.

Anonymous said...

Grandson one reeled in some big fish at the cottage on Sunday, just like Popop did. Grandson two devoured it, and wanted more -just like Popop.
Genetic memory is an interesting thing, isn't it.