Happy New Year!
Without hesitation, I can say that I have never been happier to say goodbye to the old and hello to a new year. Many of us view New Year’s Day as a new beginning. It is the chance to make changes to diets, exercise routines, and daily habits in general. All with the hope of making our lives better, healthier, and more prosperous. This year, it is my hope that the curse of 2016 does not carry over and tarnish the gleaming promise of 2017.
In 2016, we lost music legends, prominent actors, and distinguished political figures. Several of my childhood idols and heroes are among the now departed. On top of the newsworthy deaths, we lost my dad to cancer in October. An event that just serves to make the past year the worst of my life thus far.
My dad was truly a unique individual.
On the surface, he was an intimidating, big, bald guy who looked as though he could break a person into tiny little bits with no trouble. He frightened more than one boy during my teenage years. In fact, there was one date who arrived to pick me up for a Friday night out that left before I made it to the living room. Just because my dad answered the door with a stern look on his face and a question. Afterward, my dad felt horrible because I was left at home on a Friday night. He later admitted that he’d always dreamed of answering the door to a boy and demanding to know, “Young man, exactly what are your intentions towards my daughter?” It would seem that this boy’s intentions were not the purest. I never saw him again and today I can’t even remember his name.
My Dad sitting with my daughter. This was his favorite picture of all time.
Appearances and jokes aside, once dad spoke, it became obvious that he would not hurt a fly. He was a kind man who never met a stranger in his life. When he happened to meet someone new, he would try his best to find a familial connection to that person. Either by blood or by marriage. The funny thing is that he found a connection more often than not.
He always had a story to tell. Long, rambling stories that often made no sense were a common theme. He was full of stories about people you never knew. He would start a story and you would listen and wait for the tie-in to the current topic. Some time later, as your mind continued to try in vain to find a connection that did not exist, all memory of the previous conversation would disappear. His stories often drove me crazy. But I’m a little sad that my three-year-old daughter will never have the experience of sitting through one of his stories.
I was a teenager when he came into my life, and he accepted … No. He embraced me as his daughter even though he didn’t have to. In fact, within a couple of months of his and my mom’s wedding, he asked my permission to legally adopt me. I was your run-of-the-mill angry teenager at the time and I am ashamed to say that I turned him down flat. He never brought up the subject again. He also never wavered from loving me and always treated me as if I was his daughter by birth.
One of the few times I saw him with tears in his eyes was when I gave him a pocket knife with the word “Dad” engraved on it. He cherished that knife, and he only carried it on special occasions.
We had almost no warning that he was sick, and his death caught us off guard. We knew in a general sense that there was a problem with his health for about a month. Then, we found out that he had pancreatic, liver, and intestinal cancers. It was a Friday; a trip to the doctor led to a trip to the emergency room where he was admitted after they found the cancers. Even though the doctors said he would be able to return to work in a week or so, he was gone two days later.
I am thankful that he did not suffer through a prolonged and what would have likely been a futile battle with cancer. I am thankful that he experienced the joy of hearing my daughter call him “Paw-paw” for the first time ever during a hospital visit earlier on the day he died. I miss him and I am sad that he is gone and that my daughter will never have shared memories of her Paw-paw. I am filled with regret over things left unsaid and guilt over the infrequency of visits even though we lived a few minutes away from each other. I am also overflowing with a selfish rage that he was gone so suddenly.
If I have learned anything this past year it is that life is short. Too short. My dad was only 66 years old. I expected more time with him. We all did. But it wasn’t meant to be.
With that lesson fresh in my mind, my goal for 2017 is to leave nothing unsaid. To make the most of every opportunity to tell the people closest to me that I love them. To worry less about the small stuff, and focus more on the things that make me happy.
What about you? Do you have New Year’s Resolutions this year? Or have you given up on resolutions and plan to focus more on goals? Leave a comment and let me know.
In my next post, I will delve into the many newsworthy names that we lost in 2016. Until then, stay safe and treat each other kindly.