The last time I saw my father was through our living room window.
He was sitting in his favorite La-Z-Boy. I pounded on the screen with my fist, but he paid no attention.
“I love you. I love you,” I said.
Finally, he looked in my direction and muttered something that I couldn’t understand. Satisfied, I walked toward the end of our driveway, where a car was waiting for me. I was leaving for the weekend to stay with my best friend and would be back on a Sunday, November 5.
When I returned home two days later, I was led to my parent’s bedroom, where my uncle and mom were waiting. Your dad got sick, they told me. We took him to a hospital. There was a little bit of a pause. “And he just … died.”
I spent a year crying myself to sleep. Without a father figure, I fumbled through my teenage years, looking for direction. After high school, I went to college to study engineering in hopes of following in my dad’s footsteps. He was a civil engineer.
But it wasn’t for me. Words were what I loved.
I got a job at a newspaper after I graduated, and it gave me a sense of satisfaction that I couldn’t find elsewhere. I had purpose. People cared about what I wrote. I gained confidence. And through that, I became a man.
Next May 21 I’ll turn 34, the same age my father was when he died. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about dying at the same age. I have nightmares and sometimes wonder if the universe works in cruel ways.
But today, now that it’s been 23 years, I choose to focus on the good thoughts rather than the bad. I thank my father for the lessons his early death gave me about mortality. And I thank him for the memories I do have, rather than the ones I don’t.
And I still say I love you, even if he can’t hear me.