The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Forrest Hershberger
View From The Handlebars 

Remebering Fatherhood

 

One of the deepest, yet most worn-out mantras, cliches even, is “you never know what you have until it’s gone.”

Some of those life experiences, never fully return once they’re gone.

I lost my dad and then my daughter within a few months, now 14 years ago. I don’t say this to draw pity, but to define a timeline.

I grew up in a home where relationships were more important than things. Things tend to wear out. Relationships will continue as long as they are nurtured. Cars rust and get outdated. Bikes tend to collect dust like the well-intended exercise equipment they are, unless used often.

I rarely saw my parents argue, very rarely. It doesn’t mean we never had stress in the house, or disagreements that got a little heated. It means the night never ended without some degree of resolution.

My dad was the kind who, although thought in terms of numbers, was very Kingdom-minded and enjoyed spending the afternoon debating the latest political issue or headline news.

Even after leaving the home and starting my own family, I could walk through the house and suddenly find myself in a debate with no clear end. Some days it felt like two old men in the park arguing about the heat or what the mayor did the night before, except we didn’t have any checkerboard tables in our hometown and we weren’t the proverbial men in the park.

“Aw, what do you know anyway ya...!” Fill in the scenario from there.

Oddly enough, I miss those days. In a world I write, we could meet occasionally at a favorite coffee shop, debating subjects that we can’t solve or are otherwise “way above our pay grade” for no other reason than to spend time and stimulate the gray matter a little. They would be good times, where the clock was irrelevant until the barista reminds us of closing time, or my wife calls asking when I’m coming home.

Probably one of the hardest tasks I’ve ever had was to sit with my dad, unsure if he could hear me, but still whisper my good-byes. It was hard because it was one of the unexpected events in life. He wasn’t in perfect health, but a fall complicated the issues he was facing.

As his days got shorter, his gaze was as if into another world. The one night my wife and I decided to eat dinner at home became the time he drew his last breath.

Our daughter Jill broke from her birthday celebration to meet us at the hospital, leaning against me as I tried to address the foreign emotions. Little did we know, the same scenario would occur again in a few short months, with Jill silent and me at the other end of fatherhood, just as much at a loss for words.

Jill and I had our moments. Sometimes she saw through me like a window, and other times its was a dance like two fighters profiling each other in the ring. Once I offered to take her to lunch, then she got mad when she learned I wanted to talk to her about a disciplinary issue. She almost walked out on lunch, she was so upset.

She was genuine, in her passion and in her rebellion. We grew together like a father and daughter should. She would have been more likely to have a coffee date, except it would have been a specific Frappachino flavor of the month, or maybe a chocolate shake with french fries. Her exit came at the hands of speed, a motorcyclist, and poor judgment. I wasn’t there to say goodbye. The goodbyes have happened often since, in a world that is rewritten every time I pick up the pen. The problem is, as C.S. Lewis once said: after a period of time, it is fiction based on a period of life.

Some of Jill’s inner-circle friends have become like our adopted daughters. It is a blessing, but sometimes, sometimes I’d like to change the script. I’d like to erase my calendar for a trip to an engagement party, a wedding, milestones with the grandchildren.

As it is, there are moments I stand in the middle, memories of being my dad’s son on one side, and my daughter’s dad on the other.

Life is a three-point diagram. Most men want to be fathers, but also want to have a father.

 

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