My blogs have been on hiatus for months. As most people understand, life has a tendency to draw your attention to more pressing matters, and I sadly report that one of those matters was my dad.
We lost Dad to cancer over the summer. Our larger-than-life dad who counseled, coached, corrected and coddled us is with Mom now. And while I feel blessed to have had so many opportunities during his final years to explore his memories, I also feel the loss of never getting to hear new stories.
Dad had some strong childhood memories that he liked to share often. Even if he knew we had heard the story a thousand times, he would announce, “This will be one-thousand-and-one.”
And I would listen.
And many times that retelling would spark a new question on my end, and that new question would reignite an old memory on his. And sometimes those old memories painted a brand new scene for me – a scene of a little boy getting a train set from Santa, an older boy grumbling as he pulled weeds in his mother’s giant vegetable garden, a teenager who spent his nights sleeping on the porch listening to the creatures and staring at the vast mystery of a sparkling universe.
I loved his stories.
Naturally, I feel his loss often. But it took me by surprise as I left a nursing home where I read to a group of memory care residents. I always called Dad after group readings, and I would share with him some of the sweet stories the residents shared with me. He loved hearing their stories, and those often sparked new memories for him.
As I drove silently home, I thought about all I’ve learned over the past year. I reflected on the stories that resonated with those I’ve read to, and I considered the importance of sharing our childhood memories with our family. Does it matter? Would my dad have been a different person if I knew nothing of his past?
My conclusion: It matters.
I have a deeper understanding and empathy for my dad by knowing his past dreams and fears and flaws. I decided he was possibly the most perfect imperfect person I have ever known. Dad was a mess. And Dad was divine. Dad’s stories shaped him. They shaped me, too.
After Dad passed away, my sister and I walked the streets of our childhood neighborhood. We reminisced about the stupid things we did, the funny friends we had, the smell and feel of our Kentucky bluegrass, the crickets that invaded our living room, and the view of Venus from my bedroom window. Our stories might seem trivial, but they paint our greater landscape and deserve to be captured.
Because all of us are a mess, and each of us is divine.