Nope. I do not see the moon.
Have you ever taken note if you actually notice the sun and moon in your life? Daylight comes when we wake up. Nighttime comes at the end of our day. Those backdrops are a daily given. But, do you actually stop to appreciate the celestial cornerstones in our hectic and sometimes over-scheduled lives?
For me, I do not see the moon anymore in the context of my family. You see, since the last time I penned any prose for those of you who may come across this blog, I lost my father. It was sudden. It was painful. It was not expected. It shook my core more than I ever expected.
Just over two years ago I excitedly re-engaged with my blog after an extended hiatus because I became a father for the first time. I wanted to share my fatherhood experiences in the hopes, that for other first-time fathers, it may just give them some time to reflect, consider their fatherhood futures and let them know, “You are not alone bud, I’ve been just there, here’s what I know about a diaper genie.”
I never anticipated that one of my greatest early lessons about fatherhood would be driven by the loss of my father so soon…so suddenly. It reconfigured everything for me as I embraced my role in being big daddy to my little man.
The anger, sadness and melancholy was not only about how my dad’s passing, a year ago this week, impacted my sister and I. It was about my mom losing her best friend, her husband, the man she carved out a life with in Canada after they both left their lives in Italy. It was also about my son losing his last grandfather before ever getting to know him. My son’s birth unleashed a renaissance for my dad, as grandchildren tend to always do in grandparents. His overwhelming love, happiness and pride was so evident. The roots he helped establish in a country far away from his original family, had just grown deeper with my son’s birth.
It has been a year now of rollicking about in an ocean of sadness and grief and I still cannot think of my son and my father together without my throat clenching up and my eyes watering. They packed in a lot of precious moments in just the 13 months they had together. Though my son will not have any memory of them, thanks to smartphones and our digital edge, there are some priceless videos and photos.
Their last interaction was with my son in his car seat, the engine running in our vehicle, as we were set to leave my parent’s home after celebrating my father’s birthday. It had been a good day. My father had my son giggling as he stole his nose again and again, a fun game in every Italian grandfather’s repertoire. Three hours after that, we are all rushing to the hospital. The next few days would be the hardest my family has ever had to bear. I know, I know, we are not the first family to lose a parent and we will not be the last. This was life unfurling in its sometimes cruel and unjust way.
What have I really learned about fatherhood this past year?
One, and this I wrestle with almost daily still, is realizing the amount of time and opportunities my dad and I wasted being bullheaded. I can jokingly say he is partly to blame for how I can dig in since I picked up that no bullshit, stand your ground when you think you’re right attitude, from him.
I know, it’s a clichéd regret, taking for granted what you have until it is gone. Cliched as it is, it is the truth and it hurts. What I would give for one more day. One more civil conversation. One more time of laughter. One more time of translating something into Italian from English.
The best moments as a dad will not always be about the big Disney vacation or getting your kid the coolest Christmas toy. It will be about the small moments similar to the ones I recall crisply, as if they happened minutes ago, like fishing at the same spot time and time again- each time arriving during early sunrise, a blanket of morning mist still hovering above the grass and canal. Another is watching Formula One races together in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, pulling for Ferrari to prevail. One of my favourites (why, I am still not sure) is an amazingly clear memory of stretching out on the backseat of our Pontiac LeMans, studying the back of my hockey cards, as we waited for my mom to finish her work shift. My dad is smoking his cigarettes, listening to CHIN radio, while doing a crossword puzzle. I can still smell that smoke and leather and recall the buzz of radio voices and nearby traffic as our soundtrack.
I’m convinced now that moments like these are the golden little threads, when woven together, which create the strongest rope…the rope you desperately grasp for as you face the darkness upon realizing there is no more moon.
Photo Credits: Top, Andre Widjaja, bottom, Pochwat Photography