Twenty Years…

To my Dad…

I remember moments about the night of November 2nd, 1999 so clearly they could have happened yesterday. When I saw Mom coming up the back deck, I knew, I knew you were gone. She didn’t have to tell me.

I was surprised, even though I shouldn’t have been. Because the night you’d come home to be with us, a few nights before, you choked up as you told me not to tell anyone about the narcotics we had in our house. You choked up as you looked at me, your skin yellowed, your eyes sunken in slightly, your hair greasy – you pushed out of your scratchy throat that they only give that kind of medicine to people who are really sick. People who are terminal.

I don’t think any of us expected it to be that quick. Two weeks from your diagnosis and you were gone. In many ways I’m thankful. I didn’t have to see you suffer, but I did witness things that were scary and moments that stick with me to this day. Like waking up that morning and finding the knives from the butcher block lined up, you not knowing my name, getting your days and your nights mixed up. Those two weeks were the longest of my life. As was the following week when we buried you.

There were moments I went between so much sorrow and sadness to happiness, and then guilt because I was happy.

I remember Allison coming to be with me the night of your visitation. I didn’t even tell her I needed her, she just knew. I remember her being at the funeral, along with Michael – me sitting up front listening to everyone sob and completely lose their minds as they played that Vince Gill song I still can’t listen to. I held onto my aunt as she sobbed.

Afterwards, Allison came to me upset, because she thought that had been me sobbing so loudly.

But that’s never been me. You know that. I don’t cry in front of people, and when I do, it’s when I’m driving or watching TV, or listening to a song. Those first years after you died were so hard. Mom having her heart attack, the rift with your family, and Grandy dying three weeks to the day after you did. It was so hard. It still is. In the weirdest of moments I can be hit with the never-ending grief of you being gone. Other times something reminds me of you and it makes me laugh. That loud laugh of yours I inherited.

Even though you didn’t have a cell phone, I still reach for mine to call you when I see some interesting NASCAR news, or this year when I hit the USA Today and Wall Street Journal, I wanted nothing more than to tell you on my own. I wanted to hear your excitement and get your thoughts on how I should be investing. If me wanting to completely quit my day job is stupid.

You were the brains, but you were the one who always told me I could do anything I wanted to do. You’re the one who asked me once “Do you think I want to spend the rest of my life working for someone who doesn’t care about me?”

More than anything, I want you to know that teenager who you used to yell at for coming home and not making the best of her first thirty minutes there, by getting dinner started, picking up the place, doing a load of laundry. That eighteen year old?

She’s become a thirty-eight year old woman who takes whatever time she can get, whether it be ten or fifteen minutes to work on her business. She owns a business, she makes the decisions, she has people who read her words, she has friends all over the world, she has published over forty books, and she’s not done yet.

Thirty-nine scares me. It’s the age we lost you at. It’s hard to believe that I’ve almost been on this earth longer than you were. In my worst moments I feel you, and I know you’ve sent the people I need in my life.

I have no doubt you pushed me to publish, you put Michael in my life right when I needed him, you’ve kept Allison and I friends all this time.

And I’ll do what I’ve been doing since you died.

Trying to take all the chances I can to live life. I’m still living it for both of us. I always will!