Over the years, I had many times tried to mentally prepare myself for my Dad’s passing, because he was never one to live life the easy way. He lived hard and he loved even harder. He was sort of a paradox for me, like the roughest of diamonds. Hard but beautiful. There was always this teetering between brilliancy and despair, there was not a lot of middle ground with him. I’ve always said and believed that my Dad is the reason for the goodness in my heart, my ability to balance darkness with light and reality with dreams. He helped shape the very best parts of my spirit.
About a week before my Dad left us I was regaling my co-workers with tales of my Dad and my upbringing. It was colourful to say the least, and this past while I was beginning to realize just how like my father I was. My mother had mentioned that many times, but usually when she was less then impressed with me: “You are just like your Dad”. But there is so much of that ‘just like my Dad’ that I am so blessed to have inherited. Because of him I can relate to all social classes of people. I can get down with rednecks, I can get my hands dirty, and I would never ever look down at someone not as fortunate as me. I remember once making fun of a classmate when I was about 10. I was laughing and telling him and he listened quietly. When I was done he immediately made me call that particular girl right then and there and invite her over to play. I had no choice, either I called or he did. I was going to be friends with this kid and like it!
I only ever saw him through a daughters eyes – which to some people would lead them to believe my view was tinted rose, but maybe that just gave me an advantage to seeing through this man to the beautiful soul that lay underneath his pain. We celebrate and relate to our parents in different ways and mine are no exception. With my Dad, my love saw past his humaness. His demons mattered very little to me because I knew his soul. It was buried deep but I know it was immense because somehow I knew it and always did. I never EVER doubted how much he loved me, even when he didn’t show up for events, even though he wasn’t always ‘there’ like other Dad’s were ‘there’. It didn’t really matter to me because I knew he loved me so much, more then his own life. But for this life he was fighting his own battle and it often clouded his mind of rational thinking. I always got that, even when I didn’t understand it. I somehow knew that when he looked at me his heart filled up so full. The thing I wish he knew but he could never believe or accept was that no other man on this earth would have the piece of my heart that he will always have. I am so proud he was my Dad, I am proud of him and proud to have been Gord Graham’s daughter.
Many of the most beautiful parts of my childhood were because of him. I remember seeing him eyes closed listening to a good song, feeling the lyrics with every fiber of his being. I remember him picking up a piece of dirt and clenching it in his fist and telling me that dirt was good for the soul. I remember countless rainbows, thunderstorms, star gazing, firefly watching to name only a few. I remember him telling me to make sure I took time to watch the sunrise and the sun set, and him waking me up to show me a particularly beautiful sunrise. I remember him imparting random bits of advice I would often shrug off. I clearly remember him telling me once that sometimes when you were searching for something intangible that maybe it wasn’t something to find ‘out there’ but rather ‘inside’. I remember him telling me over and over again to live simply. He wanted me to be happy. He told me this many times over the years, and it seemed to be important to him: that I be happy and whole. He often felt like any unhappiness in my life was because of him. I think I never stopped trying to convince him that he brought so much light into my childhood. That with the darkness he brought character, acceptance, and so much love my heart could burst. It was because of my parents love, the good and the bad, that I know exactly who I am.
When we were going through Dad’s things I saw that he had kept journals. To this day when I am uncertain, in pain or trying to express myself I write. I learned that he used to do this too. It is also probably not uncommon for my daughter to watch me listening to music, my eyes closed immersed in the lyrics. He used to do this too. I am also the first to let my daughter stay up late, eat ice cream before dinner and bend rules a little bit much to my husbands chagrin. Chris, (my husband) is often telling me I am too easy on our daughter. My Dad used to do this and I remember my Mom saying words similar to what my husband would say. I buy plain chips and douse them in white vinegar because they are delicious. He taught me this. Sandwiches also taste better with chips on them, he taught me this too. Letting loose, saying things you shouldn’t but know that everyone is thinking is another thing I got from him. The ability to somehow get away with it is another skill he passed on. When I realized just how many of his cherished characteristics I was passing from my Dad to my daughter I was filled with hope. I know that he will never really die in my life or in my daughters. She does things that I do, that he did, and that is how he will stay with us. I can take the very best things he taught me and pass it on.
My mother, my brother and I were the centre of Dad’s heart. In his wallet was a worn photo of my mother, my brother and I because we were his best and most loved accomplishments. As soon as you opened it, there we were. My father died loving my mother because he lost her due to his demons. He lost his family because of his demons. He didn’t lose our love but he was lonely and lost in later years. Its painful to acknowledge, but its the truth. He knew why it was the way it was, and he had regrets. He spent a lot of time hurting because he couldn’t change it. He wanted to but he didn’t know how. His journals stressed this over and over. His heartbreak, his inability to change and his longing to have his family back were something he never quite gained back. Its heartbreaking to know how broken he was and how low he felt during his last days hence my deep pain, but it also a joy to know that he is freed of this now. I know that he can now be who he always was underneath the darkness. All the goodness that was in him is now all that he is. I have felt him around me, and I know he is around us all, his love so expansive and real it fills me with the confidence to go forward with my life with zest, passion and happiness.
My sudden desire to ‘farm’ was something my father did in his 30s as well. He worked for CN railroad as a foreman for years, but in his 30’s he bought a farm. He loved what I was doing and offered me so much information and encouragement. He also bothered me about having a second kid, he felt my daughter needed a younger brother. I miss my Dad’s crazy text messages and I miss bonding with him. I really felt like this past while we were getting to know each other in a new way. He was telling everyone who would listen that he would be moving out West with his daughter this summer.
I’m not the first person to lose their Dad and feel like there is an enormous empty space that just can’t be filled. I also can’t be the only person whose heart has felt such crushing sadness intermingled with a freeing kind of joy in knowing that he is finally free of the things that brought him so much pain.
Missing you everyday Dad.