Life isn’t fair. If you grew up in my family and didn’t know this by the time you were 4 or 5, you weren’t paying attention. It was my dad’s favorite line. Complain about pretty much anything and you could expect, “Well, kid, life isn’t fair. Get used to it.”
Death isn’t fair either. 23 years ago, when I was 23, my dad died of lung cancer. He was 56.
I’ve been dreading this day, the symbolic halfway point of my life, since his death. In the year after my dad died, I took comfort in the fact that only one year ago, he was still alive. But as that horrible year after his death passed, I couldn’t think “last year he” or “last year we.” The last year was already gone.
The immediate pain of death recedes. That’s true. But the loss remains. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my dad. Not. One. Day. 23 years is a long time to miss someone.
And there is a lot to miss. My dad was not perfect, but boy, he was fun, the life of many parties. He would accept any last minute invitation and leave the chores for later. He taught me to swim, fish, ski, golf, shoot a basket (I never really learned that one), swing a bat, and ride a bike. There were family ski trips with the Arpins and, once, an infamous canoe trip with my uncle and cousin. He taught me to play cribbage and gin rummy and that there always needed to be some stakes (1/10 of a penny a point when I was really little) to “keep the game interesting.” He did not let me win. Ever. He taught me Irish songs, many violent or morbid, and was the one to explain to my kindergarten teacher why I sang a song about “sticking a knife in the baby’s head” for show-and-tell. (His excuse was that I spoke [and sang] so quickly he didn’t think anyone would understand me.) He fostered my love for demented Christmas trees because he and Pat Arpin would bar hop until they finally cut down the trees, leading to some interesting specimens that eventually became a family tradition. He hand wrote letters to me while I lived in Italy, which usually consisted of sports updates of the Brewers, Bucks, Green Bay Packers and the Wisconsin Badgers and a few tidbits of family news. The year between college and law school when I lived at home and waitressed, he would often wait for me to get home from my weekend shifts and have a drink with me while I unwound. When I was in law school, he always took me to the airport when I left and picked me up when I came home.
He loved me and I never doubted that love. I never had an absent or disinterested father. I was his “favorite youngest daughter.”
And now, it’s the 1/2 way mark. After today, I will live more of my life without my dad than I got to live with him. It’s not fair.
Except not really. I did the math: the halfway point is really in another 336 days. So for another 336 days I can take comfort in knowing that I got to enjoy life with my dad longer than I have enjoyed life without him. And after that, I will just have to enjoy life: it’s the only way to honor the memory of someone who loved life like he did.
It’s not fair to make a person cry in the morning. Oh wait, that’s right… 😉 What a great tribute, Kerry!
It is easy to see why you have such a love of life, adventure and fun! A great example to follow!
What a great tribute! His presence is strong in your approach to living life as an adventure. I have found memories of him and his wonderful gift to live in the moment embracing your friends and family. Sending peace to you.
What a wonderful tribute to your dad! Those Irish eyes are smiling down on you each day.
What a beautiful story of you Dad Kerry. Thanks for sharing. p.s. Loved your mom in that great red dress and scarf. she looked lovely.
Oh, Kerry. That is lovely. I remember your dad so fondly. He truly loved life, his family, and his friends. (Oh, and a good beer! :)) Sending you a special hug.
Kerry, Thanks for this endearing remembrance of your Dad! He would be so happy with the sentiment (he’d cry like the emotional Irishman he was) and so proud of the writing. A story well written is always a joy but when it’s such a wonderful recollection it is truly special.
Not a week goes by that I don’t think about your Dad and how much he meant to me. An uncle, a friend and a confidante who was always a joy to talk to and spend time with. The stories in your post are wonderful and bring back to me so many good memories I can’t thank you enough for reminding me. They made me cry at the loss and laugh at the recollection of the good times. I can’t wait to share your post with my Mom. She’ll love it.
I hadn’t realized the 1/2 way mark aspect of the story but can only say your in our thoughts as you work through it. Enjoy life…it’s the only way your Dad knew how to live and it’s what he’d want for you.
I miss him too.
What a lovely post, Kerry! I always enjoy your posts, but this one was so touching.
Thank you for this brings back many memories. My dad died when he was 52 in 1976, when I was 26 years old. And I still miss him even though its been 39 years.
I’m sorry for your loss, Nate.
A beautiful tribute! Thank you for sharing.