I had to come see Dad
I had to come here to see you, Dad. As I begin to prepare for a speech on fathers and sons in early November, I had to visit your grave site.
You died young, at age 63. Not crazy young, but still too young. Today, you would be 75 years old. You met only one – Abby – of you five eventual granddaughters. I think often of the joy you missed out on.
You quit smoking cigarettes in 2006, when Mom got cancer. I never thought you would stop smoking. You smoked three or four (or more?) packets of cigarettes daily from your late teen years until you were 58. Forty years of smoking – about 14,600 days of smoking. How difficult was your fight to quit? What inner recesses of addiction must have continued to call you back, to lure you into the familiar nicotine embrace? You resisted them.
I felt immensely proud of you. Did I tell you? Did you know I felt proud of you?
Our inner sense of feeling foolish betrays us, keeps us from revealing our hearts to the people we love. I wish I’d told you I felt proud of you.
Dad did not show his love for us much. We were not a hugging, backslapping, physical touch sort of family.
Instead, Dad put his love into action and wrote about his love for us. In the days before the ole internet (and even after emailing became ubiquitous), Dad would read an interesting article and mail it to me at college. He would include a note, in his tight, perfectly formed cursive, telling why he thought I’d enjoy it. He always signed it, “Love, Dad.” Sending me the article told me he was lovingly thinking of me. The note put that love into words.
I didn’t say a word on this walk. I didn’t sigh. I barely breathed.
I walked around The S. Russell Smith Family plot a few times. I looked up at the enormous trees all around. The wind picked up and the trees gently swayed, motion in a place of stillness.
I took a last look at Dad’s grave marker. I felt ready to write my speech.