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A Birthday Wish for Reconciliation: Editor’s Notebook

If you’re estranged from people you love, don’t wait until it’s too late to forgive them.

This is my dad as a very young man. He was and still is my hero.
This is my dad as a very young man. He was and still is my hero.

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 beth.dalbey@patch.com


Bryan Bentley April 09, 2014 at 02:06 PM
Thank you Beth for sharing your story with us...
Jack Manning April 10, 2014 at 09:58 AM
There is a saying that "Relatives are friends that are forced upon you." If you had to chose them for friends it would not happen in a million years. In many, many situations, it makes life more enjoyable to simply jettison some or all family members and go on with what can be a more enjoyable life. Looking at estrangement as a negative is not what it is let on to be...it can be a positive for the rest of your life.

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