It’s hard to name exactly what my first memory of my father was, but I know that the running theme throughout almost every memory I have of him is his laugh. That full, warmhearted laugh that came so easily and so often, that laugh which always made a person feel as if they had just told him the funniest thing he’d ever heard. In all of my memories of the red rocks and deserts of Sedona, my childhood home, I still see his smile, his Hawaiian shirts, his sweat pants, the way he’d be outside in the hot sun, cutting boards, nailing things together, planting trees.
Back in Sedona, I remember the car rides to school, to art classes, or to soccer practice, and how I felt so comfortable just talking his ear off, rattling off facts about superheroes or dinosaurs as he listened, laughed, and replied. I remember how I’d grip so tightly onto every insight he offered, how everything he ever said seemed so instrumental.
And when I became a teenager, I remember Hermosa Beach, back in those adolescent years where I was busy finding myself for the first time, starting to become who I am now. I remember talking to him in the kitchen, seeing the first hints of grey just starting to touch his hair, imagining how we’d still be talking years later in a future that seemed so obvious at the time, but in reality never occurred.
Even now that it’s been a decade since he died, it still all seems so surreal. I can’t deny the fact that Father’s Day is always a strange day for me. Losing him when I was only 17 years old, still just a high schooler, created an unfillable pothole in the road of my life, and whenever Father’s Day comes back around, it’s as if I’ve been looking away and accidentally swerved right back into it. All these years later, I can’t help but always feel like he’s still only a phone call away, as if I should be able to just buy a plane ticket right back to Hermosa Beach and see him throwing a Frisbee in the sand, getting ready to go on the sailboat, or maybe just walking around whistling in one of those Hawaiian shirts he wore.
Tragedy never disappears; it’s part of what makes human existence what it is, and I’m proud of the life I’ve made for myself. Veronica, the brilliant woman I’ll be marrying in just a few months, is the light in my heart, a constant source of love and energy that always brightens my day. I feel lucky to have such enormous love from my equally enormous extended family, a group that stretches all the way from Boston to North Carolina, Arizona to California, and more. I feel lucky to also feel such genuine love from my fiancée’s family up here in New England, and from all of the many, many close friends I’ve collected over the years. To be surrounded by such closeness, from people both near and far, is truly something amazing.
Life is life: tragedy, happiness, all of it. But most of all, on Father’s Day, though there’s an ache in my chest a mile wide that I can’t deny or get rid of, I feel lucky to have been his son, to have known him, to have called him my father. I wish he was still here, but the memories will never fade, and I’ll never forget him.