71 – that’s how old my dad would have been had he still been alive today.
13 – that’s how many years he’s been buried in the ground.
I went to the cemetery for the first time in years to mark the occasion of his birthday. While he’s never far from my thoughts, it’s hard to visit the patch of grass marking the location of his bones. I think about him daily and when I do, it’s a mix of memories, pleas (in my head) for advice and vague feelings of proximity. Not in a kooky “his spirit is floating over me” sense, but in a simple, comforting sense. Conversely, when I visit the cemetery all the memories of his actual dying just come flooding back and the accompanying feeling is harsh and abrupt.
But when I stood in front of his headstone today, perhaps because it had been so long since I last stood there, I started reflecting on what the last 13 years would have been like had he lived to be an active participant in Chloe’s and Sophie’s lives, and how they would have interacted together.
What would they have called him? Pops or Gramps or Grampster or something else?
He would have loved Sophie for her affectionate and sensitive ways. He would have been proud of her keen eye for fashion and would have cherished the opportunity to take her shopping for clothes. He would have read her all the stories she wanted and complimented her incessantly on her artwork.
He would have loved Chloe for her intellect, her curiosity and her boundless opinions. He would have enjoyed taking her to the movies and having frequent discussions about politics, pop culture, music and all the other stuff that Chloe talks about incessantly. He would have unreservedly encouraged Chloe to pursue her entrepreneurial instincts.
He would have certainly taken great pleasure in watching the girls hit milestones like learning how to read, ride a bike, swim and ice skate. He would have given each of them way too much money for their first lost tooth – setting future expectations well beyond our going rate of $1. Most important, he would have encouraged both of them to be sensitive, ambitious, free-thinking and independent young women.
Chloe and Sophie would have loved being spoiled by him. They would have given him a run for his money on vacations, and I have no doubt that he would have joined them on the boogie board at Hilton Head. The girls would have served as a welcome distraction from the stress of work and he would have eagerly looked forward to the weekends to see them. And I’m sure he would have surprised them on occasion by meeting them at the bus stop after school.
His death left a huge void in our lives – and that void has only expanded now that the next generation is growing up without ever knowing him. But it is what it is, as they say. And all we can do is keep him alive in our memories so that the girls will at least have an inkling of what he was like and know how much he would have adored them.
Happy birthday, Dad. I love you so.