Did I tell y’all I found a speeding ticket that Dad got late last year? True story. My old man was busted going 77 in a 55 m.p.h. zone—which I found quite funny. Unless he was hungry, he was never in a hurry for anything. The thought of him racing to get to Perkins—which is open 24/7, mind you—still makes me giggle. Of course, he squirreled it away so I wouldn’t find it—but I did. You’re busted all over again, Dad—bless your heart.
Lord knows cleaning out Dad’s house alongside my auntie this past month has been an exercise in patience and teen angst. For one thing, I feel guilty even calling it “Dad’s house” because—let’s face it—that house belonged to The Bevinator. She designed the interior, decorated it and gave it every bit of nuance it had. But Dad took painstaking pride in how the exterior looked—down to the last blade of grass on the lawn. Heck, he singlehandedly designed the look of the house—right down to the big bay window out front that catches everyone’s eye.
When the realtor came and put the “for sale” sign in the yard this week, it was like she drove a stake right through my heart. I truthfully had to step around back because I couldn’t catch my breath. It felt like oxygen had suddenly been removed from the earth. The same thing happened when the hospice called to tell me Dad had quietly passed away.
I can say, in all honesty, I have cried more the past 30 days than I have collectively in my entire life—and that includes when Mom unexpectedly passed away in 2014—um, right before the holidays. Crying has become so commonplace, it’s like breathing (which, if you’ll note, I’m not doing a very good job at either.) Friends have invited me out for coffee and I gratefully accept with a caveat—”at some point I’m going to end up in hysterics.” On Father’s Day, I had to pull the car over on the side of the road I was bawling so hard. If Dad were still around, he would have suggested I buy stock in Kleenex. “Make it work for you,” he would have told me.
The thing I struggle with most is at the end of my day when I’m headed home from work. That’s when I would call Dad to kibitz about our respective day. Now at 5:30 p.m., I still instinctively reach for my phone when I get in the car. On days when I can’t bear to drive home, I’ll listen to a few of his rambling voicemails on the way. There are plenty from which to choose—and they’ve been lifesavers. Most are about mowing. (PS. He was always mowing. Or getting ready to mow.) Some are about what he had for breakfast that morning. Hell, I’ll even listen to the ones where he yammers on about whatever caught his eye on Fox News. If you’re having a bad day, lemme know—his 92-year old soliloquys will help put you in a better mood.
The only thing that has brought me a modicum of comfort in the past month is that I know Mom and Dad are reunited. Theirs was a love story for the ages. When The Bevinator passed away after nearly 60 years of marriage, Dad was devastated. When he talked about her (which was often), it would always be in a soft tone. A quiet fondness, if you will. He liked reminiscing, so I would always pepper him with questions about Mom. No matter what I asked, Dad would always circle back to the story about when Mom mentioned—sitting on the step one night—she might be preggers. After 15 years of trying, they never thought they were going to have kids—so the story Dad repeatedly told always had sentiment behind it. If Mom was the love of Dad’s life, I sure wasn’t far behind. He was always adamant to point that out.
After Mom passed, Dad started ending every phone call or bedtime routine by telling me, “I love you, son.” In the last few years he added, “And I always have.” Just a few months before he passed away, he appended that with “… since you were born.”
Man, what I wouldn’t give to hear him say that right about now.
Dad, if you’re listening (and I know you are)—I love you too. And I always have. Since I was born.