Sometimes it’s the oddest things that can remind you of a loved one, a song, a person, a place. For me it’s the sound of a train whistle or a motorcycle revving, the scent of a cigar or burgers cooking on the grill that bring back memories of my father.
I arrived at Eggers the day before what would have been my dad’s 59th birthday, so he was on my mind a lot during my first few weeks here. While I still think of him constantly, the pace of work soon distracted me, as it did during my first deployment to Afghanistan, during which my dad passed, and at the time I was grateful for return to the deployment tempo. So the other day, I was a little surprised to find myself thinking about my dad while flying down to Helmand province with my boss and his staff. I was in full work mode, writing notes and thinking about what I would try to get photos of, while listening to my boss talk to his staff about the day ahead, and I was reminded so much of my father. They don’t look alike, and while he served in the Navy, my dad was nowhere near the rank of general, but all the same, my dad had a similar commanding presence of my current boss.
My dad was a tall, broad-shouldered man with red hair and large features. When I was young, he was a giant and when I was older he was the man I most wanted to impress, with my accomplishments in school and then in the Air Force. I know he wasn’t perfect, and he had his flaws, but people gravitated toward him. He had a way of making people feel comfortable, to tease them and joke and tell stories until you were on the floor laughing, barely able to breathe. His self-deprecating humor and story-telling ability are things I miss almost constantly.
But even more, I miss something I took for granted when I was young: the opportunity just to talk to him, to get his advice and perspective. I found as I grow older myself (and supposedly more wiser) I valued the inputs my father had on my life more and more, and I wish I could still have him in my life, to talk with him, to bounce ideas off him and to just have him listen and be there.
I wonder what he would think about the decisions I’ve made and how my life has changed in the two years he’s been gone - getting stationed in California, getting divorced, starting my master’s program, running my first marathon - and what he would think about my being in Afghanistan again.
All I know is as I sat on that plane, I was overcome by a longing so fierce for my father, that I had to fight back tears. It took me a long time to be able to talk about my dad without crying and even longer to look at his pictures. It’s been two years since we lost my dad, and while the pain lessens over time, I miss his presence in my life every day.