|My dad (24) and his racing buddies.|
Let me just say I think I found the original hipsters right here, look at those beards, the hair, the flannel, although the jeans probably aren't tight enough. OK not really pretty sure calling them hipsters would be a mortal offense, I mean look at them I wouldn't want to mess with them, move over Outsiders! I fell instantly in love with this picture even though I only remember two of the people in it. It was taken long before my arrival on the scene. I walked over to my daughter and said, "This one is your pop (choke back tears) pop pop (voice crack) who is in heaven." "Was he at a car racing contest?" I told her all about her pop pop and his car racing and his motor cycle racing. She went on playing and I walked back into the kitchen.
I flipped through the other pictures a few with him in them but I kept coming back to this one. The way he is holding that helmet, he looks just like my little brother. That high forehead looks mighty familiar, I look at it every day in the mirror. And that don't mess with me face is like seeing myself, my brother, and my daughter all in one person... we all make that face. I wonder how much we would all be like him if he were here. I wonder what we would talk about.
Over the years I have wondered a lot about what life with my dad would have, could have, should have looked like. I have mused about him being there on my wedding day. I have imagined his relationship with my child. Today though I wondered something entirely different, I wondered if we would get along. When my dad got sick I was a wee little tot of just seven years old. He was my world, developmentally speaking he was still the perfect parent, the hero who I never became disillusioned with. He never became fully human and flawed for me as I developed. He remained for ever how I saw him when I was seven. Which logically I know at this point in adulthood isn't who he really was.
I have heard a lot about him from family and his friends. As I have gotten older I sometimes wonder how we would have gotten along. I get the sense that we may have had different ideas about many things. I can't really know, ever, because people evolve, we only remember what we want about people, and so forth. I know for sure he loved me, I know that when people engage in dialogue with their kids sometimes they fight and sometimes minds are changed. I wonder how that would have been for us to navigate. For example I know for sure he was deeply wounded by the church of his childhood upon his return from Vietnam and he pretty much disliked organized religion. Clearly we have different ideas, but then again had he not gotten sick, had he not died, I may not have been called to do what I do. It is a hard thing to think of how I never really knew him to his core, just little pieces of him. But I look at this picture and I see how much of him lives on in us and I am so very grateful.
My dad, my sister in law, they are single losses among quite a few significant losses in my life time. I am not old enough to have this many losses of significance, in my peer groups most still have their parents, some still have grandparents. It is at times challenging to say the least, it is like being advanced in the worst way possible. I won't ever have the answers to the questions of my father's personality, it is an impossibility, and so as I live with the space he left in my heart, I make peace with the questions.
Today I observed an odd thing before this picture came but the picture made it more apparent. This part isn't new, I often will not allow myself to get close to people because the instinctive defense mechanism is, they will leave, they will die, and it will hurt less if you don't like them. The new part was driving home from a visit, thinking about how attached I have become to a few of the folks I visit and many in church. Many of them are between 80-95 years old. The sheer irony, I have allowed myself to love these people deeply in just a year's time and I will preside at some of their funerals, curbing my own grief until later in the day.
As painful as it is, I am grateful for the journey thus far, all of it.