Monday, September 14, 2015

You Just Have To Keep Going


August 21st.

This year I wasn’t thinking about it. Some years, I can’t think of anything but it, but other years the date just slips past me among the business of late August. I thought about it earlier in the week, when we were in Wisconsin Dells. It was hard not to think of it up there, after years of family vacations, riding the Ducks, camping, Circus world, go-karts and mini golf. I spend most of the trip trying to remember what we did as family up there when I was a kid, trying to picture what it looked like then. It’s coming up soon, I said to myself. But then vacation ended, and it was back to work, trying to catch up, and I forgot about it.
Then my sister posted this on Facebook:
“I don’t really believe it ever gets easier. You just have to keep going.”
She tagged my brother and me in the post. Most people didn’t understand the cryptic post. I did. My brother did. A few others did.
The ‘It’ in my sister’s post happened on August 21, 1983.  I’ve written about it before, but thirty two years later maybe it doesn’t get easier. Do you ever truly get over the death of a parent, especially if you were only a kid when it happened?
Because of my sister’s post multiple people asked me if I was okay that day. I didn’t understand their concern until they reminded me about the post. And I was okay that day. Really, I was. In fact it was a little jarring to hear people be concerned for me, maybe they didn’t know why.
When someone brings something up, though, maybe you’re not okay anymore.
I’m forty now. I’ve outlived my father, who did at thirty-nine when I was eight years old. For six weeks this year, I was thirty-nine while my son was eight. They are just numbers. People look for meaning in numbers, sometimes even when there is no meaning behind them. I was nervous those six weeks, hoping history wouldn’t repeat itself.  Hell, I even look more like him now than I ever did.  Just look at the picture.-
May 8th, 1980. My fifth birthday. One of the few pictures with both my father and me; he was always taking them. Thanks goes to my brother for taking this one.
Earlier this year my two older children watch Field of Dreams with me. While these days there are plenty of movies that make me cry, there isn’t one that makes me cry harder than at the end of Field of Dreams when Ray Kinsella asks his father, a ghost who has appeared out of an Iowa cornfield to play baseball, for a game of catch. Waterfall. Hell, I start crying the second Ray realizes that the man playing ball is his father.
My oldest has played baseball the last couple of years, but he isn’t into nearly as much as I was when I was a kid. There is nothing I loved more than baseball when I was younger. I would spend hours in the backyard throwing the ball of the fence in our backyard, or hitting balls off a tee. Most fathers want their kids to love the things they themselves loved as kids. I’ve tried my best not to push them into things. After a season that included more rainouts then games played and my son getting hit by pitches about six times, he was ready to be done with baseball for a while and enjoy his summer. Then one night, a night I had worked late and had a million things to do around the house he asked me, “Dad can we go play baseball?”
I’d been waiting for him to ask me that forever. I dropped whatever meaningless task I was working on that could be completed later and we went down the street to the park, my son and daughter and I, and we played baseball. We threw the ball around, took turns batting and pitching and made every hit a homerun. It lasted maybe twenty minutes before they tired of it, but for me it was the best twenty minutes of the summer.
Those are the days I think about it. The days I wish I could play catch with my dad, even though he was the one who wasn’t as interested in it as I was as a kid. The days I’m glad I’m still around. I plan on staying around, too, for a long time. So they won’t have to go through it all like I did, like my brother and sister did.  Because my sister was right: it doesn’t get easier. But you just keep going.
We've kept going for 32 years now.  It wasn't easy but we are better people for it. My mom, my sister, my brother, we are still here. So, not matter what it is, keep going.
Thanks for reading.



2 comments:

Kristen Gill said...

Mike, this is such awesome writing! I'm sitting at a coffeeshop here in Seattle, tears streaming down my face. I remember the day your dad passed. He was the first person I knew to die. One never really knows what to say to a family when that happens. I am so sorry for you, David, and Julie. But I do know one thing: your dad would be so proud of each of you. He lives on in all of our memories...Thank you for sharing.

Mike Smolarek said...

Thanks, Kristen!