Today I outlived my father.
Before anyone sends condolences, I should clarify. My father died in 1976. Today I am one day older than my father lived to be. I am 17,940 days old, which translates into 49 years, 1 month, and a dozen days.
How do I know this? Microsoft Excel.
Why do I know this? That’s harder to say.
Probably, it is for three reasons: Big Brother, Buster, and Big Man. If not for them, and all they’ve added to my life through fatherhood, I likely would have never thought about this milestone.
The eight years I had with my father boil down to about five years of faded memories. Beyond that, he’s mostly hearsay from others and conjecture on my part.
For most of my life, I recalled my father through the eyes of a child – the last eyes that saw him in real life. My own children have allowed me to relate to him as a father.
Children are remarkable adapters. When my father died, I adapted to the way life must be without him. I lived as children live, thinking about today, leaving yesterday behind. My mother pulled double duty to provide her children good childhoods.
Like lots of kids who lost a parent, I considered my life to be normal. I never felt sorry for myself. That hasn’t changed, but something else has. Once in a while I feel sorry for my father. This empathy is a gift to me from my own children.
As a child, I coped with, and moved past, my own loss, and that was the end of it. I didn’t consider things from a parent’s point of view. I couldn’t conceive of the tragedy of being pulled away forever from a house full of young lives embodying all your hopes and dreams. I didn’t appreciate the sadness in not being there to share the joys and sorrows.
I don’t know what comes after life, or if there is a time or place for a departed soul to feel the sting of this separation, but now I feel it for him. I feel it when I realize how precious my boys’ smiles, and even sometimes their tears, are to me. I feel it when I think about how much they have to learn and how much I need to teach them. I feel it when I realize that most times I am called by name, that name is “Daddy.”
On my father’s 17,939th day, he had eight children, aged 5 to 19. The next day, we all were forced to rebuild our lives without him. Faded, with my memories of him, is the sadness of losing him. More vivid to me now, is a sadness for his losing us.
I visit this sadness now and then. It reminds me to enjoy the great gifts of fatherhood while I can.