I saw my dad for the last time 20 years ago today.
It was his birthday and we had a big party to celebrate. He went along with it reluctantly. Spring had come early that year. There were calves being born and fields to be planted and he was always – and this has been spoken so frequently to describe him that it’s written into family lore – “like a caged lion” when forced to be inside when there was outside work to be done.
But my sister, Marie, insisted – bless her – and those of us who were close enough drove to her house to celebrate the occasion.
I always hugged and kissed my dad and told him I loved him after a visit. That day, I held him tighter for longer. On my way home to attend the party, I had stopped to visit some dear friends who had just lost a parent. Maybe gratitude that I still had my father quickened the embrace.
Or maybe it was the hand of fate, silently warning: "Don't miss this moment."
A week later on a Saturday morning, April 16, 1994, the phone rang so early that I knew before I answered it that something was wrong. “Dad passed away last night,” my brother said.
I don’t remember a lot more about that day, other than the crushing grief that is moistening my eyes even today, 20 years later, as I write.
How can that much time have passed? It seems like yesterday in so many ways. Even now, I occasionally think to call him, to pass along something I think he’d find interesting, or to ask advice, or just to hear him talk about his hopes for the calves being born.
We were wonderful friends when he died. As a little girl, I was a quintessential “Daddy’s little girl,” following at his heels so closely that I’ve got a little scar over one eyebrow that resulted from getting a little close when he was shoveling corn. He was the biggest constant in my life, the one person I knew I could always count on to be there.
Then I grew up – or older, anyway – and away, as so many teenagers did during that time of social revolution and change. We were mad at each other for a very long time, so it seems, but in reality it was only for a few years.
We made up and were best friends once again. If we hadn’t, I don’t know how I would have handled these last 20 years.
That’s my message. If you’re estranged from anyone you love, make peace, if not with each other, then with yourselves.
TELL US: With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day coming up, please share some memories of your parents – what you learned from them, why they're the most awesome parents ever, whatever you wish – and we’ll feature them on Patch in the weeks to come. Questions? Send an email to email@example.com