‘Leaving So Much Still Left To Say . . .’

My dad would have turned ninety-three today.

I don’t know how many times in the last nine years and four months I’ve seen something as I go through my day and I’ve thought about telling Dad about it.

Dad left us on a sunny June afternoon in 2003, and for the next two years or so, I’d see something Dad would have appreciated – anything from a bit of folk art in someone’s front yard to a magazine piece about the China-Burma-India front where he served in World War II – and think briefly about sharing it with him. Then I’d remember that he was gone.

The first few times that happened, I felt horrible for forgetting that he’d passed on and sad that I couldn’t share that little bit of a moment with him. Then I realized that it was those little moments – noticing something he would have appreciated – that were keeping Dad’s memory alive in me. So it was okay in those first few years to forget for a moment that he was gone. And in time, those moments shifted from “I’ve gotta tell Dad about that” to “I wish I could tell Dad about that.”

I was going to say, too, that those moments come by less and less frequently as the years pass, but I’m not sure they do. I don’t keep track, but I have a sense that I quite often see something and think about mentioning it to Dad. I wish now that I’d had the foresight to start a notebook in June of 2003 titled “Things I’d Like To Tell Dad.” I think I’d have filled quite a few pages.

Nine years is a long time. Ninety-three years . . . well, I haven’t got a frame for that. I know how long fifty years feels. That gets me back to when I was nine, and I know how distant fourth grade seems to me now. But I can’t wrap my head around ninety-three years. Well, in a historical sense, I can: Dad was born less than a year after the end of World War I, into a world where not every house had electricity or a telephone, where radio was a novelty, movies were silent, moon landings and nuclear weapons were science fiction and the Twenty-First Century was a distant fantasy.

Okay, it was a long time ago. I’m not discounting historical context, but today, that feels empty, and I guess the only way I’ll ever have a frame for ninety-three years is if I make it to September of 2046.

The other week, Mom and I were going through a box of papers that had been up in the storage unit. Most of the papers were records of the costs and materials used for the various remodeling projects they did on the house on Kilian Boulevard during their forty-six years there. But one of the envelopes contained a certified copy of my dad’s birth certificate, something I’d never seen.

It doesn’t tell me much that I didn’t know, and I doubt that I’ll ever need it for any proceeding. And it’s not like I need a reminder that my dad was born in North Branch Township, Minnesota, on October 18, 1919. But it’s going into our documents safe. I imagine it will sit there until I’m gone, and then the Texas Gal or my sister or my niece and nephew can figure out what to do with it. Maybe whoever it is will think of something they wish they could tell me as they go through the stuff I’ve left behind. If so, I hope they write it down.

Here’s a tune I’ve shared here before, but it’s the only one that makes sense for me today: “Daddy’s Tune” from Jackson Browne’s 1975 album, The Pretender. I don’t know that Dad and I argued as much or as angrily as the song’s narrator and his pop did, but my dad and I did have a few major differences of opinion along the way. Luckily, we parted on good terms.

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3 Responses to “‘Leaving So Much Still Left To Say . . .’”

  1. I’ve reread this a few times, whiteray. It really resonates.

  2. Bing Stills says:

    My dad has been gone for 17 years and I still see or hear things that would be great to share with him. As Neil Young says, the past is a big place. I would add that I don’t live in the past because the rent is too expensive. But, once in awhile, it’s nice to thing about the ones who left us behind. Truth is, they never totally leave. Nice entry and I’m sure your dad is smiling somewhere.

  3. […] shopping list and run her errands alone. Ninety-one years is a long time. As I similarly wrote a couple of months ago about the age my father would be if he were still alive, that’s a length of time I cannot […]

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