Hey Pop

Hey Pop,

It’s been a year since you left us. I’ll admit, it’s been a lot harder for Mom — infinitely harder — than it has been for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still miss you. Kari and the kids miss you, too. But I think I see a bigger picture.

You were never one to shy away from the talk of death. You always made us aware, even as kids, that death was the ultimate end for everyone in this world. While you never confessed a faith of sorts, you also acknowledged that there had to be something bigger than us. I always took comfort in that — I think partly because it was outside of any established religion or belief system. It was just something you felt in your own being.

Mom is still misses you terribly, and I can appreciate that. She doesn’t see what you saw ahead in the same way: a redo of all the treatment, travel, pain, and general misery that would be repeated with the hope of a few months of good times, only to be repeated again and again, each time being less effective until you died. She doesn’t see your leaving was a gift of freedom to her: not being relegated to being your nurse, stuck at home every day of her retirement, suffering alongside you.

Of course, Mom would have gladly chosen that–your being here, that is, and tending to you. She’d have rather stayed by your side through all that might have come if you would have just stayed here. She constantly laments it not the case.

I knew how you felt about the end of life. You never wanted to be sick for long. You never wanted your bride to be your nurse. You never wanted pity from me or Christina or your grandkids over your condition.

I’m still convinced –100%– that you knew what was coming and what you were doing. I remember the day in 2021 when Isaac performed for Pumpkin Idol. You felt terrible that day and when I came back from the performance, I took a nap on the couch in the family room. You moved to sit right across from me and when I woke, you said, “Little nap?” It took all you had to speak that day because your throat was so dry. I should have seen what was coming. I’d have talked so much more. I’d have asked so much more. I’d have hugged you so much tighter.

I thought it odd to see you watching me sleep, but in hindsight, I’d have done nothing different with my own children had I known my time was near. To watch over a person you had made, sleeping at peace, knowing they would be ok once you were gone had to give you a sense of peace (and hopefully satisfaction). At least I hope it did. I wish I had the awareness that I have learned in the year that followed. I may have understood what was happening that afternoon: you were saying “Goodbye.”

The last year has brought an abundance of changes. I hope you would be happy about most of them. Mom is much more social. She enjoys meals with family and friends, has her fair share of wine at PK, and walks with her girlfriends. She’s finally getting that bum hip replaced next month, so I’m sure she’ll be even more active in the coming year. She still wants a “girls’ trip” with Chrissy and Kari and I’m sure she’ll get it.

I finished my year-long pastoral internship on August 31. It was so strange to mourn your death as I started this. Today I can hardly believe my internship has completed and you’ve been gone a year. I know you never cared much for religion (at all), but I sure hope you’re happy that I’m preaching a message of love and forgiveness in spite of people’s failures and faults and not a message that condemns them for their screwups while ignoring my own. I hate religious hipocracy as much as you do. Thanks for instilling that in me so strongly.

I guess that’s about it. Chrissy and the kids are at the duplex across the backyard in Flanagan while Kyle is at MIT. I’m really glad Mom has her and the kids for the next year, especially after them having been so far away for so long and with our impending move.

I did my best to do all you asked of me to take care of Mom and the “business end of dying” that we had discussed multiple times. The “Zulu” file on the computer was really helpful and made things much easier than they would have otherwise been. Thanks for that. I began tending to it the day you died per our agreement.

I’ve had a few dreams with you in them over the last year, but all we do in them is argue. That probably says more than I’d like to admit. Some damned head shrink would probably have a hayday with that. But I’ll always remember the phone ne call from you when Addie was about two years old, telling me not to make some of the same mistakes you made. That call really changed my approach to parenting and helped me get some help I really needed at the time.

I still blow-up at my kids more than I should–though they arguably still deserve it. But more often than not, I collect myself, call them in, apologize and try to explain my emotions. You didn’t do this when I was a kid, but your guidance led me to do this. It has made me a better father.

I tell them I am far from a perfect father, but I’m doing my best to do better than you did. This isn’t a slight, but a huge compliment to you. I know how you were raised, and I know how you raised me. After all you took as a kid, you never laid a hand on me other than the occasional spanking — and those were always more than deserved. You did better than those before you, and I’m so fortunate that you did. My goal was to continue in your bettering example.

You did such a good job at improving on your own upbringing with me and I only hope I do as incrementally a good job with your grandkids as you did with me.

Well, not sure what else to say or how to end this, so I’ll just say:

“It is what it is. See you when I get there.”

I love you, Dad.


Comment ( 1 )

  1. Michael Earle
    Brett - this letter is a WONDERFUL compliment to your Father and to your character, which he helped inspire in you. It has I nspired, in me the need to sit down and write some letters. Thank you for sharing!!! God Bless you and yours.