It’s been 40 years; since I am 47, that’s practically a lifetime, but the pain is still there. It’s usually just beneath the surface, waiting for some random moment – a father and daughter dancing at her wedding, a little girl walking hand-in-hand with her father – to remind me of just what is missing in my life. Forty years ago tonight, my sister graduated from Hammond Tech High School, giving the valedictory speech. I was only seven, so I don’t remember much about the evening other than being dropped off at my grandmother’s little house on 169th Street afterward. Our family was going to be moving from Hammond to Hobart the next morning so that we would be closer to my dad’s company, The R.W. Greenland Co. It seems my parents thought I would be more of a nuisance than a helper as the movers were loading our belongings.
Little did we know that our lives would be turned upside down the next morning. After breakfast at Grandma’s, her black rotary phone rang. I followed her back to her bedroom and listened to her end of the conversation. I wasn’t certain what was going on, but I would soon find out when she carefully replaced the phone on its cradle. It was one of those moments that one never forgets. When one receives devastating news, she nevers forgets the words. “Honey,” my grandma began, ” lay yourself across the bed and cry. Your daddy just died.” Dad had been in the attic getting things down for the movers, and dropped dead of a heart attack. Just like that, this young businessman who was just beginning to see the fruits of his labor was gone.
I remember small moments of time from that day. We made our way back to our next door neighbors’ house, and spent most of the day there until it was time to go to our new house. Of course, at that point we didn’t want to move, but we had sold our house, bought a new one, and had contracts by which we had to abide. Imagine my mom, 41 years old and suddenly a widow with an 18 year old daughter, a 14 year old son, and a 7 year old daughter. She was a stay-at-home mom who was dependent upon my dad for most everything. She was quickly forced to learn her way around the business world, while at the same time mourning the death of her young husband and caring for three children. Thankfully, our wonderful friends and neighbors, Clyde and Peggy, were there every step of the way. Clyde had been involved with the start-up of dad’s business, and was able to help my mother with decisions she was not prepared to make.
At that time, we did not have a lot of family living near us. My two grandmas were close, and I had one uncle who lived in the region. We were very active in our church, Southside Christian Church, and they were our family. They swept in that day and took over. They helped us complete our move, and continued supporting us over the next few years. The men in our church stepped in as father figures, and the ministers visited regularly. That evening, my uncle came to help us. My cousins were near my age, so my uncle took me to spend the night with him. My mother argues this; she said she remembers my sleeping with her that first night. I did sleep with her in the days following dad’s death, but I clearly remember that first night at Uncle Sonny’s house because I remember lying in bed in my cousin’s room hoping to wake up the next morning to find it had all been a bad dream. Honestly, for years I waited to wake up from that dream. When I realized it would never end, I began to wish I would dream about my dad so I could remember him – the sound of his voice, his laugh, his smell.
I get really frustrated because I don’t remember much, but I was so young. Sometimes I find myself wondering if I miss my dad, or if I miss having a dad. I often wonder what traits of dad’s I am carrying. Does my drive to succeed come from his? My talkative personality? At every big moment in my life, I have missed dad. I needed his advice when I began a new venture, and I wanted to see him the first time he saw his grandchildren. I wanted him to walk me down the aisle, and watch me graduate from college. I wanted him to hold me when I cried, and laugh with me when I said something outrageous. I still get jealous when I see daughters with their fathers. What a gift.
My faith has allowed me to move on, and to still trust that God knows what’s best. I believe that He has our journeys planned, and that no matter what the situation, there are lessons to be learned. I also know that if Dad hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have my girls, my husband, or the life I have now. We moved to Tell City because that’s where my step-dad is from, and if we hadn’t moved here, my life would have been completely different. I have a great life now, and am surrounded by many incredible friends. For that I am thankful.
On Saturday, June 7, 1974, the world lost a great man, and my sister, brother, and I lost our dad. He’s been gone many years, and throughout those years, many of our relatives have joined him, including my grandmothers, my uncles, and most recently, my nephew. I believe Stephen entered Heaven and is spending eternity with his grandfather. I believe that dad’s spirit lives on in unexpected ways. My dad was a pianist and organist, and also wrote music. What a blessing it is to hear Addison as she sits at the piano learning to play a song my dad wrote. I’m certain he is guiding her hands across the keys.
Tomorrow, June 7, 2014, I will get up early and run. I will remember that day so long ago, and probably shed some tears. But I will also think about my life now, my family, my friends, my job, and all that I’ve accomplished, and I will know that my dad is proud. I miss you, Dad…every single day.
One response to “Dear Daddy…”
This really touches home to me. I lost my dad at 8 and I often wonder how different my life would have been. Unfortunately at age 19 I lost my mother and my world was definitely was turned upside down!