January 19, 2015
I thought for awhile about starting with dear Daddy, because I lost you twice, the first time I was still calling you daddy. The second time I was old enough to have evolved to "dad". You died 16 years ago today and I find myself very reflective about my own life and yours. I wrote today on facebook (yeah computers, internet, social media... I bet you would have loved this) reflecting about my journey and how in the end your death empowered me to live my life. I won't go so far as to call loosing you a gift but the lessons it taught me surely were.
I didn't realize until I was much older that I grieved for you three times, first when you became ill, then a few years later when I realized what brain damage meant, and finally when your body died. Sadly, you missed out on a lot of the good things that happen in a child's life. You didn't get to scare away my first date but after I knew we were a couple, I brought Paul to meet you in the nursing home. You did get to be there for my graduation from high school, you had told me once about how you just wanted to live to see one of us graduate from high school. You died a few months after my graduation, you knew I started college. I have graduated five times since then dad... it seems excessive I know but it turns out all that growing up fast caught up with me and I had to find who I really was. Today your baby girl has two Associates, one Bachelors, and two Masters degrees. Then there was our wedding day, I suspect if one can be there in spirit you were, the weather was perfect, it was your birthday, a little nod we gave to you. Dennis and Mom walked me down the aisle, Uncle Doc stood in for you at the father daughter dance. These "big" days often have made me miss you and think of you and wonder. There was always a sadness.
I don't think you ever imagined you would have a preacher girl for a daughter. These days I am not sad as much as I wonder. Since L was born, I have wondered about what you would think of being a grandpa. I wonder about how the two of you would get along. Oh how I know you would love her and she you. How I dream that she could know you and you could beam with pride at her dance recitals. I wonder what our relationship would be like, what we would spar over, and what you would think as I told you of my job prospects all over the country. I wonder what kind of jokes you would make. Or what your face might look like on ordination day when I served you communion. I am left to do a lot of wondering.
I hate that you suffered how you did in those ten years, as I get older I can imagine how torturous those days in the nursing home must have been, how abandoned you must have felt. You know when I started coming to see you senior year and bringing food, I was hatching a plan to get you out of there, I was going to finish school, get a job, and an accessible apartment. I guess it wasn't in the cards for either of us.
I wish you didn't have to die. I wish some person some where didn't sign off on using agent orange. I wish you didn't get sprayed with it, I wish I didn't have to worry about DNA mutation. I wish you didn't suffer. I wish you didn't get robbed of your life when you were hitting your stride. I wish it all mattered to the people who signed off on those papers. It doesn't seem to. Your death and your life mattered. In life you gave me life, a love that was deep and in death you empowered me to savor every moment I have, especially those with L.
Dad, the other day I was looking at my dry and cracked hands, I saw yours. I thought of the movie Beaches, when the little girl says, "Look mommy, our hands are the same." The mother sobs because she realizes her daughter has the disease too. I just had a check up today, so far it hasn't been passed on. I watch L closely and so far she is healthy too, no signs of your disease or Dale's or any of the others. I have some hormone regulation problems but for now they don't change much other than my ability to make babies. I try not to take any of it for granted, to embrace the now, and to let your love sing in my heart.
All my love,
Today I am grateful for the life of Everett Dale Gresham Junior who was taken like so many before and so many after, far too soon. I am in a very reflective space today, not particularly sad, just filled with wonder, love, and gratitude.