It is hard to believe it has been a year since my dad passed away. Little by little it has sunk in that he is not around anymore. I remember thinking to call him to ask him a question a few weeks after he was gone and being dumbstruck that he was not going to be there to answer. Instead, now I wish I had paid a little more attention to all the knowledge that he had. Asked more questions. Been more patient. I think even though we knew he had cancer, and we knew the inevitable ending, we all lived a little in denial. I always thought I would have a little more time, another chance to learn what he knew. But I was wrong, and there were only so many chances.
Last June we knew my father would not make it another year, and my sister and I had the same struggle to buy our father a father's day card. What should his last father's day card say? Mary called one of her friends who had also lost a parent and asked, "Why didn't you tell me all the lasts will be so hard?" And the response she got was, "All the lasts are really hard. And then once he's gone, all the firsts are going to be really hard too." (The card I gave was blank inside and I just wrote, "I love you, Dad.")
So it was true. My first birthday without my dad. Our first Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's. And the hardest of all, his birthday without him. Leo is always there with us. We still make sure we have the foods he loved, and tell stories about our favorite holidays with him. And we pick on my mom to try and make her as flustered as he did ;)
The days go on, we keep living. We survived all the lasts, and now we have been through most of the firsts without my dad. It makes it easier to think of him with the rest of our family, all together and having a big party. I know that he suffered, and that he did not like how weak he had become, how forgetful he was, and how confused he could get. The chemo took its toll on him, and how he was in those last months is not how he would want to be remembered. Instead I remember the big guy who came to all my soccer and hockey games, who drove 4 hours to watch my first crew regatta and after the race was over (a full 45 seconds of rowing) said, "That was it??" (We lost, btw). The man who could throw back a few drinks, and had a few great dance moves. The man who drove big trucks, who could operate a backhoe like no one's business, and who remembered every septic tank he installed. The man who loved each of his kids and was proud of everything they had done. That was my dad.