Ten days ago I walked into my dad’s house. He was in his chair, napping as he does, but something told me he wasn’t just asleep. I called out to him and said “Hey, Daddy, wake up, I’m here.” But he didn’t move, so I called again, but nothing. Then I touched his cold hand and the back of his neck, tears running down my face as I yelled for him to wake up, but he didn’t. I sat down next to him and sobbed, my hands shaking until I had the presence of mind to call for help. The rest of the day was surreal and it didn’t help that it took hours for them to come and get him, because he looked like he was asleep. I kept looking over at him and waiting for him to wake up, with that groggy look on his face, and then smile at me for catching him napping… but that never happened. He was gone.
Over the last ten hazy, sad, tear and laughter filled days, I’ve been remembering my life. My daddy was my best friend, the first person I went to when I needed help and advice. I talked to him almost everyday. As the days go on, I realize that I haven’t talked to him since that last Thursday. Joking and laughing about nothing in particular. That’s the hardest part. I can’t hear his voice, or hug him goodnight, or hear his laughter. It hurts when I think about what I’ve lost.
When I was twelve-years-old, I was going to bed and my dad started to cry and he said “When we go to sleep, I really need to hear ‘I love you’, it’s really important.” From that night on, I never ended a conversation or went to sleep without telling him that I loved him. I was blessed to have him for eleven years longer than I should have, after strokes and congestive heart failure and I was blessed to be able to care for him last year, when he needed me most. That was one of the best and scariest times of my life and I treasure it.
I’m not sad that he has gone on to be free of the body that had stopped letting him live the amazing life he had lived, or that he’s off on the next great adventure. I’m sad for me. Mourning isn’t about them being gone, it’s about us being left behind. It’s not like I’m ready to go yet, but I’m still sad for me and for the children I have yet to mother, who will only know him through my stories like I knew his mother.
A day doesn’t go by that I can’t hear his words in my head about whatever is affecting me, always good advice, always with love. I remember going bear hunting in the back yard at night (which never happened, because Pat would never go outside), Bigfoot hunting in the park (that time I wouldn’t go and Pat ran maniacally into the woods, totally unafraid), watching the Legend of Boggy Creek, learning to box (no, I do not hit like a girl, you better look out for my right cross), coaching my soccer team, my basketball team, having to stop taking me to my swim meets because I was more interested in seeing my daddy then diving first, hearing “Suck it up!” every time I got hurt (it made me stronger), learning about the magic of Monty Python, going to see Caddyshack and ET, being tickled till I couldn’t breathe, telling him he forgot to cook the meat when he gave a three-year-old Steak Tar Tar, then listing to him bitch as he made a burger out of $30 a lb gound steak, watching him dance with my mom when they still loved each other, going to USC football games and tailgating, watching Football at Highbury and drinking in Pubs, scaring the French kids at St. Paul’s (I actually scared them, dad just laughed), dancing with him at my wedding, sharing a love of SyFy channel movies, hanging in Vegas, going to breakfast at 2am… there are so many more and I think some I’ve forgotten that my brother and sister will remind me of in the years to come.
I have been so unbelievably lucky to have been the daughter of Michael Dearing and to have been his friend. I hope you are happy and free, off exploring whatever the universe has in store for you next and know that wherever you are and whatever you do, not a minute goes by that you are not in my mind, my heart and my soul. I love you, daddy… it’s been ten days. I miss you. I love you. Always.