There is a hole in my life. It's a dad-sized hole. After all these years, I can pretty much ignore it because quite frankly there have been other holes that have opened up in the meantime. The thing is, they don't close, and something the size of my father can't be ignored forever, all the time.
I absorb that loss by regurgitating things he said. Songs he used to sing. Stories he used to tell. Oh, and the jokes. Most of them have become inextricably mixed with my own schtick. I have absorbed so much of what he was that I don't have to worry about missing him.
Except when I do.
I don't have to worry about putting him on a pedestal. Though sometimes I do. He was, after all, the best father I ever had. And I was lucky, since I was able to hold onto him for more than half his life. I got to hug him goodbye before he took off on that last flight. The one that would lead us all back home.
God, he could hug.
But he wasn't without fault. The past twenty-five years have taught me about the challenges of being a grownup. Of being a dad. Of being married and having a job and coming home to a family. Even when I didn't always want to. I know that my father was probably a better dad than he was a husband. That gives me room to improve on the basic model. Much in the same way he was able to get a leg up on his old man by being there for his kids even though his dad faded into the backdrop of Salina, Kansas.
My dad won't fade into any backdrop. I won't let him.
When my son recently announced that he was proud and happy to have my example of more than twenty years at one job, but he didn't think that was the path he wanted to take, I understood. He already has some of my best bits. And a lot of my dad's. He doesn't have to be a teacher. He doesn't have to go for a run every day after he comes home from work.
He writes. I love that. I write too. He confided to me somewhat recently that he does not make a point of reading all these blog posts. He told me that was because he was saving them up. For when I'm gone. He wants to have something to fill up that dad-sized hole.
I can respect that.