Father’s Day 2015: I Remember the Shoes

Dad wedding

One of the worst things about loss is that it is completely unpredictable. You never know how it is going to feel from one moment to the next, or one year to the next, so you can’t protect yourself from it.  A friend of mine who had never experienced the loss of a loved one before asked me how it felt.  The best way that I could describe it was to say that it is like walking through your house in the dark.  Without really thinking about it, you know how many steps it takes to get from the bottom of the stairs to the kitchen floor.  You know how closely you need to walk to the wall to avoid hitting the kitchen table.  But every now and then, someone will bump into the couch and move it over just one tiny little inch.  One tiny little inch is all it takes.  You run right into it, jamming your toe, and before you can stop yourself you are withering in pain while a string of expletives escapes from your mouth.  You learn how to navigate the darkness, but you cannot predict how subtle changes in life will sneak up on you and trigger a pain that is always there, just below the surface.

Today, this picture was the couch.  I stared at this picture and what I realized was that I remember those shoes.  I remember how much those shoes hurt me and how desperate I was to take them off.  I stood holding the hand of greatness, bathed in immeasurable love, yet I can’t remember how that felt.  Instead, I remember the shoes.

I am a firm believer that love, much like energy, “can neither be created nor destroyed, but it transforms from one form to another”.  I know that my father’s love did not leave this world when he did.  It simply transformed from one form to another and I found it in a million little ways over the years.

I found my father’s love in my Uncle Greg and my Uncle Dan who both stepped up in their own ways to be a father figure to my siblings and me.  Through working on the house, occasionally helping with the bills, supporting our endeavors, providing love and guidance, and sharing their stories of our father with us.

I found my father’s love in my Grandpa Tony, a man who had no blood ties to us, but still loved us as he did his own grandchildren.  His love for my father has brought me so much comfort over the years.  Even now, 29 years later, the mere mention of my father’s name stirs up visible emotion within him.  He is a reminder that I haven’t glorified my father; he really was as great as we all knew him to be.

I found my father’s love in Frank, the man who married my mother.   He became a father to me when I was 19 years old and already knew all the ways of the world.  He loved me through my arrogance and helped me to grow into a person who now knows that she doesn’t know everything. He challenged me to learn more, do more, and be more and he supported me every step of the way.

I found my father’s love in my Pappy, a man who knew me for only a moment but still offered me the world.  We met in the midst of a disaster ten years ago, and I still think about him all of the time. Somehow he saw both the little girl inside me and the woman I had become and he believed that I was capable of anything.

I found my father’s love in my “chosen father”, my Jack; another man who left this world long before I was ready for him to go.  Jack loved me with a quiet acceptance that I never once questioned.  He nurtured the learner, the explorer, and the wanderer in me.  He showed me that life is light, music, art, and taking care of things that grow.  He reminded me that there is power in silence, there is peace in silence, and silence could bring me the stillness I desired.

So while I look at this picture and I only remember the shoes, I know that my father’s love was there as I clung to his finger, and it has been there every day of my life in all of the men who have loved me with my father’s love.

Happy Father’s Day!