A month ago I lost one of the pillars of my life. A person who was a huge part of the foundation that made me who I am.
Many years ago as a young boy the sun rose and set in my dad. I went to him for advice and just for guidance and confirmation for my plans. Anytime I had a flat tired, he was my first call. I guess the last time he brought out the shop jack to help me fix a flat was nearly 20 years ago. About 8 or 10 years ago I did call him for a flat and he was getting dressed to come out when I finally figured out the combination to my spare tire. I remember this occasion so well because I was parked in a steep paved lot across from our favorite Chinese place in Salisbury and it was raining. It was raining hard. That was the last time I really had to call on him for help. After that I knew he was getting up there in years and I didn’t just want to bother them.
After the terrible accident where my mom was badly injured and a small child from the neighborhood was killed, things were never really the same. Truly that was the day I lost my dad. By the time I got to the scene, Dad was shattered and he was never the same man again.
After that day I was recast in the role of the pillar and the adviser. I think I gave sound advice and if Dad could have followed it, he might have seen more good years. During this time I had dreams about Dad’s grief literally drowning him. I talked to my pastor at the time who did go out to visit Dad once, but later seemed to just want to make it a prayer over the phone. I certainly did my share of praying and I also sought to get him grief counseling, but was essentially stonewalled by the fact that Dad wasn’t really willing to go.
By the time Dad was in his final days on Earth, mercifully the Good Lord had placed us in a new church home. The pastor went out of his way to visit a few times and was actually there on the last day I ever saw my father alive. I remember his prayer and the words he said to my dad. They were for lack of a better way to express such a heart rending moment, perfect. I don’t call that fate or happenstance. I call that providence because that moment tested me in a very real way. Dad was almost gone and I felt like my soul might break into. I think it was the late great Prince Rogers Nelson who once said, “God has a way of putting us where we need to be.” I’m so thankful for that church foundation in general and GFC in particular. I guess being a church goer is one more thing I can thank Dad for. He attended church for exactly as long as I knew him.
I guess sometimes it’s hard for that older generation to see themselves as anything other than the authority on any subject. Choking on your grief is never good. You have to get it out of your gut. This is part of why I’m blogging about this loss.
In the end my relationship with Dad came full circle. I was strong and he was weak. I was wise and he was the one who needed advice.
After his death, first I seemed to catch glimpses of him out of the corner of my eye. Nowadays, he comes to me in my dreams most nights. Only in these dreams it’s only the sage, kind version of my dad. He’s smiling and saying things to me like, “All is well,” and “It’s OK. ”
In one dream I was behind Dad’s house and the garden was full like I’ve never seen it. Tall corn and full tomato vines. There was cabbage and produce of all kinds growing wild. The message was clear. Dad left me a full garden and it needs tending.
The pillar has fallen but the foundation was laid with care on solid earth and it still stands strong. This house remains.