my dad

my dad died. 

it's nearly unbearable to write those words. i thought it would be years from now, when i was his age maybe. will it ever feel real? when does that happen?

nothing in my life has ever felt so real, and so surreal simultaneously. we were there, right at the end, mom and luke and i, holding his hand through his final breaths, saying goodbye. so i know it's real. but it still doesn't feel that way. it's too soon, i'm not ready, what does the future look like without him here? will my little theo remember him? how do we sum up his life in a tiny written section of the newspaper? what does a covid funeral look? why him? 

on April 12, 2021, our lives changed forever. we lost my dad years too soon; the first man i ever loved. my brother's hero. a nearly 40 year partner and husband to my mom. mike's coffee and news buddy. theo's Poppy. my mom keeps walking around saying "what am i going to do without him?" and that's the truth. every memory and celebration from this moment forward will either be, something we shared with my dad, or something that will be without my dad. the newspaper article is the largest we could think of, but it still isn't enough to describe him.

my dad was a series of juxtapositions.. reserved and unfiltered, introverted and friendly, negative and optimistic, simple and so complex. 

he lived for a good meal, and would go on and on and on, "that was SEWWWW GOOOOD", "that was EXCELLENT" and told my mom she'd become a better cook with age, all the time. he also told me i was a good cook, "almost as good as mummy" he'd say. 

he liked order, and everything had it's place, but in his own mind only because if you went to find something, you'd never find it without his help. his tools, for example, were organized chaos. 

he collected things; corvettes, both real life and small models, clocks, puzzles, and animal friends in the backyard. 

he was hardworking, and could talk to anyone, always cheered on the underdog, loved his family and friends more than anything else. 

my dad's smile, which i've learned touched so many in his life, was infectious. he had these dimples that theo and my neice thankfully inherited. 

my dad was the best and worst storyteller. he had dementia, so he would hold onto the same stories and tell them over and over as if it was the first time. and you'd sometimes go along with it, and sometimes tell him, "yes, you've told me that one". but he always knew every detail, and over the 30 years i've been hearing these stories, not one thing changed in them, somehow. like he had the best memory with tiny details, you know?

he was a great listener. mike reminded me of this, this week. mike said "i want to listen the way your dad did". he would just sit and nod and even when he didn't understand, he would say, "okay well that sounds good". 

his skin was like leather by the end of each summer, having laid out in the sun too much. one of my favourite memories that just keeps playing through my mind, is watching my dad cut the grass. he was very serious about lawn care and would cut the lawn the same way from my earliest memories to recently; shirtless, just shorts and running shoes. 

my dad was a modest man, and wanted that for our family too. i remember in my teens, getting into fights with him about clothing choices, and i always wondered whether i would feel comfortable breastfeeding in front of him. but when i was married, and had theo, and he recognized me as an adult woman, and i never hesitated to talk about my pregnancy or postpartum journey or breastfeeding. i remember showing him the changes in my belly button when i was pregnant, and he laughed. 

he was a backseat driver, a protestor of social events, was too obsessed with the news and the weather, and complained about taking down the seasonal decorations my mom asked him to put out.

my dad had these catch phrases, like telling you when you had your own business or baby or new car "it's your OWWWNNNN". he would start out text messages with HIIIIIIII!!!!!! and used so many exclamation marks. he always deferred to my mom, saying "ask mom". he liked surfing facebook but didn't really know how to use it well. you would ask "whats up" and he would say "the sky" like every bad dad joke. he would always order a "coke on the rocks" and the server we had would giggle. i can still hear his voice saying that.

he would tell us "you can't do that... you can't say that" as kids but recently, had become much more willing to be honest and say things as they were. my dad hated fancy clothes. he was thankfully laid to rest in his favourite jeans and new balance shoes which has re-inspired me to be 100% myself. and that's the thing about my dad, for better or for worse, he didn't try to be someone else. 

he was the best Poppy, afraid to hold the kids when they were so tiny, but quickly got over that, and would say "come and see me! come and see me!" and carry them around the house, play piano, or take them swimming. he would laugh and laugh at their eating habits, toothy grins, and new skills.

i miss this man in small moments, thinking what he would have thought about theo doing this or that, his listening ear and his quiet presence somehow filling the room. and i miss him in big moments, like my anniversary, and the most recent father's day and all of the ones to come that will be shared without him here in body. 

i talk to him sometimes, outloud, at the cemetary, or while out and about with theo. it brings me peace sometimes. sometimes not. 

love,

jess



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