I almost forgot. Usually I remember that it's coming. Usually I'm prepared for it. I didn't this year. My mom had to remind me when I was on the phone. I remembered last week, but I didn't think about it today. Today I led worship and went to lunch and watched the Falcons lose and texted my girlfriend and generally had a good day. I've gone into a funk in the last hour and almost forgot again. Now I'm pretty sure this might be why. Also, I've been ignoring God this week kinda, so that would have something to do with it. Actually, that might have helped me with this.
I've been reading a lot of Donald Miller lately. Vic gave me a copy of his book To Own a Dragon, the original version, not rewritten, and I also just reread Blue like Jazz. Don, like me, had a lot of father issues. Actually, in reading his books, his life and mine are eerily similar. Very eerily similar. And he shares my sentiment. It is strange that God chooses to be known as a father, when our earthly examples of fathers are f**ked up. Mine was. So was Don's.
I remember sitting back in high school and thinking about my friends. All of my friends, except one, came from two parent families. Like, both original parents. All my friends at school, all of them at church. In college, I began to find more friends that came from broken homes like me. I always wondered if I hung around those friends subconsciously.
I'm listening to a 90's playlist on Spotify while I'm typing this. It's helping.
My first memory of my dad is burning our house down. It was post divorce, and he had come over to light the pilot light for our gas heater, but since our house was filled with gas because of inept installation, it blew instead. I think he flew across the kitchen and landed in the sink, but mom says that didn't happen. And come to think of it, that doesn't seem realistic.
Dad lived around Athens for a while. I have spotty memories of him. I remember telling him outside his car one time that my grades were good. I was in kindergarten. I remember going to his house usually every other weekend. Mom says I usually would call after one day wanting to come home, and dad never cared. I don't remember that. I remember always wanting to go there, usually when I was in trouble or fighting with my mom. I believe her on this one. Knowing what I know now.
I remember getting skates from him on one birthday. I remember a birthday cake another year that made me sick and I ended up vomiting at 3am. I remember him being hard. I remember that when I visited him, I usually hung out in a hotel room at his work while he worked all day. For years. I remember that I only got to see cable when I was at his place, because we didn't have it back home. I remember that I could almost always see naked women when I was at his place, either from his stash or from cable, or on his playing cards. I started smoking when he was living in Alabama. We were out on a sailboat in Huntsville and he made me go down below and light a cigarette for him because it was too windy. And then I snuck a pack from him and smoked them. Actually, I lit them and made them puff and I would blow smoke out, but I would never inhale. I even tried to teach myself to inhale in college, but I never could. Different story.
When he lived with his fourth wife in Warner Robins, he had a pool table. I got pretty good. It was in that house that I officially lost my ability to watch scary movies. His stepkids were watching Hellraiser and it freaked me out and then I couldn't go upstairs because it was dark and I freaked out even more.
After I graduated high school, me and my then-fiance went to Virginia for the summer to work at his restaurant. That summer was weird. All his employees expected me to be this spoiled asshole because of him, so they were surprised that they liked me and it surprised them that, when he was being a douche to them, which he always was, I took their side instead of his. Actually, one night he and I got into this yelling match because of this, and I was screaming crying in his office, and he told me he loved me. I shit you not, that's the first time I ever remember hearing that from him. Also, that was the first time I remember him actually wanting me around. Reason: he found out I was good at darts and so he and I playing other guys in the bar and won. That was fun.
I didn't see him for five years when I went to college. Summer after my fifth year, I got off the Greyhound bus in Bayse, VA and he said "Damn. You're big." Go figure.
His restaurant had bankrupted and he was living with some woman. She was probably 20 years older than him but she had money and he "loved her." He gave me his car when I was there. That was cool. He had bought that 1991 Thunderbird when it was new, and I loved that car. I drove it to death. Literally.
Dad always gave me money and stuff and so I came to expect that. When I was young, when I would visit him, he would either be managing a restaurant at a hotel, or he owned his own bar and restaurant in Athens or Virginia, so I always got unlimited food and tv and I don't think I really cared that he wasn't spending time with me. It was heaven for me. One time I conveniently forgot my shoes when I went to see him, so he took me to get some and bought me some Nikes. If you want to know which ones, go find the episode of Friends where they are looking for Monica's christmas presents in the apartment, and Chandler finds the shoe with the note attached. It's that one. I swear.
When he was going bankrupt, I got a letter from him. It was near Christmas. He sent it to my mom's house, and I just happened to be there and got it and it was awful. He was so sad and depressed. It was all incomplete sentences and lots of ellipses. Funny thing about that. When I spent that five years not seeing him in college, I always felt bad for him. I thought he was alone and sad, and usually after I got off the phone with him I would cry. I don't know why. He always talked about his bar and restaurant and people he knew and whatever, and when I was there, he hung out with people. I just thought that. Or maybe I just wanted him to be interested in my life and he wasn't. I would say about 95% of the communication we had in my life, prior to him getting sick, was done by me. If he ever called me, I would usually be dumbfounded.
After I got his letter, I emailed him back, and I told him I loved him and I told him the Lord could help him and basically tried to get him to love Jesus, but I don't think it stuck. I've said before that I asked him if he prayed in the last days of his life, and he says he did. I don't know. I was very self-absorbed in those days, even in trying to be selfless for him, I was still doing it for myself. I think I wanted to come out on top. I think I was trying to show him by my kindness and love how little kindness and love he had. I know I wanted him to know God before he died.
I found out more about him after he died than I had ever known of him before. I had never seen a picture of him younger than...33. Seriously. No childhood photos, no college or 20's pictures. Now that I know my brothers and sisters from his first marriage, as well as his first wife, I know a lot about him. I know what he was like back then. I know what happened to their family. I know what he was like. It's surprising. It seems that, at one time, he was cheerful and hopeful and enjoyable. He did theater. He failed 6th grade. He went to Virginia Tech. He and I actually worked for the same company, probably 30 years apart.
So, anyway. I wasn't even expecting all this. It just kinda...vomited out. Sorry it was so long.
Happy 68th birthday, dad.
I love you.
Post Script: If I could talk to him now, I would say this: "Your life wasn't as hopeless as you led it to be. You could have had happiness if you weren't so greedy. People were drawn to you because of your personality and you crapped all over them. But God loved you just like he loves me and everybody else, and I hope you knew that. I wish we had had a relationship. You messed me up. I miss the idea of you."
Okay that's it.