By JEFF LUND
June 15, 2019
(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - Ten Father’s Days ago, my brother poured Dad’s ashes into a creek.
In the weeks after, I could only remember the end. I tried to stay at better memories, but they all evaporated into serious doctors, my ailing father and finally, the end.
The next time I saw my buddy Nate, he put his hand on my shoulder, nodded his head and said, “Hey…ok?”
What he meant was, “If you need anything, let us know,” but it was communicated through a head nod and just two words.
I really don’t remember if I took him up on it. That’s not to say I grieved alone, I felt the support and love coming from Klawock, Manteca (CA) and the college buddies, but I just didn’t really know what to say. I did write which helped, especially through the weird numb phase when life tastes like stale crackers. You keep trying, hoping the taste will come back but it doesn’t. They used to be good, you used to love them, now you’re eating out of obligation not to waste the box.
I felt bad for feeling so bad because I thought about how many people had it worse than me. Mom lost her dad when she was 13. Her mom, Grandma Ellen, lost her mom when she was 3 and her dad couldn’t take care of her so she had to live with relatives. There are countless other stories of people who have endured so much than me losing my dad in my late 20s. But it still hurt. I dreamed about times I had upset him, or hurt him and woke up feeling incredibly guilty. The fact I may have been in a better, more mature place to handle it, didn’t make it hurt less. It almost made it awkward, as if I wasn’t entitled to feel so bad, but grief is not about comparison. There are no Power Rankings for misery.
I know part of the grief came from things I never got to experience with Dad. Outside of things that would have made him proud, we didn’t have a lot of those poignant moments together in his last years. I didn’t hunt growing up, but a few months before he was diagnosed, I told him we should go on a bear hunt. The point would not be to actually get a bear, it was the adventurous father-son thing that I wanted to rekindle before it was too late.
It ended up being too late.
I don’t remember exactly when it was that I accepted that letting go is not betraying the memory, but it was probably with Nate and the rest of my English department buddies on a fly fishing trip or the $7 twilight special at a golf course with a trailer park in the middle. Classy indeed.
It’s okay to be happy again. It’s okay to go fishing and camping and laugh with your friends. It’s probably the most respectful thing I could have done for Dad. This wasn’t forgetting him, this was honoring him. Living for him, rather than too much of me dying with him.
The bad memories became unchangeable facts I could more easily digest, the good memories became fun and the lessons and parts of Dad I’d take with me forever became clear.
In high school band class, whenever one of us would get frustrated because we kept messing up a moving part or high note, he’d tell us to yell at our instruments. It showed us how stupid it was to get frustrated at the instrument or just get frustrated in general. That never helps. I still get frustrated, of course, but I smile when I think of Dad telling me to yell at my fly rod or shrimp pots.
He also repeatedly told me to do the best I can and to never sell myself short. I hadn’t thought about a time I wouldn’t be able to hear Dad tell me these things, but over the last decade (how could it have been so long ago?) I’ve tried not to just remember the words, but apply them. That’s the whole point of encouragement, right?
I don’t get sad on Father’s Day anymore because it’s not a reminder of who I lost, it’s a reminder of who I had, and what lives on through me.
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