Three years ago this past weekend, the Memorial Day weekend- I drove my three kids to church camp in another state. It was the first time they’d all be away from me at the same time and so far away. I drove back into East Texas and slept Sunday night. I packed another bag and headed out a little further west on Memorial Day to my hometown.
It was the beginning of an end a life changing chapter that I hadn’t seen coming. My dad had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He was in real bad shape and needed help. I had no idea the motion that had been set in place.
If I didn’t have a calendar – I would still know it. I can smell it in the air. I can hear the reminder from the birds. I feel it in the breeze. A friend said she related a similar feeling with the buzzing of the insects. The beginning of a Texas summer signals memory lane. I feel it in my bones- I just know.
I hadn’t lost a close loved one since I was 11 years old. That particular year I’d lost two grandparents. The first funeral was the first I’d ever been to. It made such an impression I had decided that I wouldn’t attend the second. Mothers have persuasive ways.
Grief is a natural part of life. I didn’t see my father every week, not even every month. Sadly I only saw him but just a few times a year maybe. It seems silly now to say we couldn’t afford to go for a two-hour trip for a visit. When knowing now what we shoulda then- we’d of tried harder.
Regret seems to go hand in hand with grief. It’s what we do with that regret – that makes the difference. Putting negative regret into a positive action is making more out of life.
All of that aside I know that he loved me. We had a unique -different relationship that that of my siblings. I was jealous of that a time or three. I have only a few pictures to show that love. I have a basket full of memories in the years that he tried.
I’d stay with him until the very end. It was just two weeks from my arrival that he left us- for a better place. If they have a race track in heaven- I’m sure that’s where he’s hanging out. In that time- he’d apologized to me for not being Dad of the year. I tried to do all I could- spending every minute I had.
He wasn’t perfect. But he was mine, my dad.
I planted this Autumn Maple tree in my front yard in his memory. Our most favorite season of the year is fall. In the fall the leaves will turn a bright red color. It’s the break from a hot miserable summer when the weather cools. For him, the love of fall was probably the start to football season! This tree is doing really well. I wasn’t sure it was gonna make it. The winds have been brutal this spring. It actually has become stronger and more stable.
When I look at it – I’m reminded of him. It looks kinda scrappy at the moment in its awkward years. But, my dad was kinda scrappy too! Boy that flower bed needs weeding. Didn’t see that till just now. 🙂
I inherited my baby fine wispy straight hair and very poor eyesight from him. He probably contributed to my height and nact for details. I owe him my appreciation for good BBQ , love of mowing grass, and the enjoyment of stock car racing.
As this Memorial Day has past signaling the beginning of another year without him I trust that he is in heaven with no pain. And one day, one day we will be reunited.
In Memory of my Dad, Opa- Stephen Wright Machen
♥ Lena Lynn