Chris Read reflects on life without his dad.
“Daddy, did Grampy die and go to heaven?”
“You bet buddy”
“He had an accident and didn’t get better, but he was a good man and gets to go to heaven”
It was 5 years ago this August and every day is a reminder of the great loss we suffered that day. My 4-year-old son never met my Dad and doesn’t really understand the concept of life and death. He doesn’t understand heaven either but then again, who does?
In a cruel twist of fate, my father passed away on the same day that we found out we were pregnant with our first born. At the time, we used that as a way to help deal with the pain of the loss by saying that he lived on in my son. I never really believed it but when you lose someone, you tend to take any positive thoughts you can get.
I’m not an overly spiritual person, so to me, the reality was that it was just his time to go. It wasn’t an easy time. I went trough a very dark transition following that day and essentially missed the first year of my son’s life. Constantly feeling like my world was caving in, spending countless days and nights in hospital emergency rooms, trying to figure out what crazy disease I was suffering from this time.
It wasn’t until one of the doctor’s referred me to a psychiatrist that I really started to see what I was doing to myself and my family. I don’t know what it was that snapped me out of it. Maybe the thought of losing my wife, or knowing that I was completely letting my son down, which didn’t seem very fair considering how great my Dad was.
Point is, I decided it was time to man up and cut the “Woe is Me” act out of my day to day. Almost overnight, I managed to shake it all off and began acting like the man my family needed me to be.
I’m certainly not perfect. I have bad days just like everyone else and I don’t have all the answers to the mystery that is raising children. I’m not even a great husband but I’m working on it.
As my kids are getting older, I’m noticing more and more the extreme void that was left by my father not being here. There are so many things that I don’t know how to do and it’s frustrating/upsetting/devastating when I realize that my Dad isn’t there to ask for help.
It’s important for me to note at this point, that I mean absolutely no disrespect to the 2 men I call Father-in-Law’s. They have done nothing but treat me with the utmost respect and have helped myself and my family more than most people could ever understand. They’ve accepted me as if I was one of their own and I love them for that.
There’s just something about being able to talk to your Dad. To be able to ask the questions that you don’t feel comfortable asking anyone else on this earth. My Dad was a great listener too. He never once made me feel stupid for having questions or asking for help and I miss being able to do that. One of the last things he did before he passed, was to help me build a fence in my yard. Do you think I know how to do that? No way!
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never have that luxury again, and it is a luxury. Instead, I do the uncomfortable begging to friends, family and neighbours whenever something arises that I don’t know how to do or can’t do by myself. And it happens a lot. I’m blessed with good people in my life, which makes it a little easier.
It doesn’t change the fact that I feel ridiculous to have to ask my neighbour to take time away from his family to help me install a screen door; or constantly bother my friends to help me with two man tasks that most guys my age do with their fathers.
And it still hurts when I see how much fun my friends parents have with their grandkids. In fact, anytime I see any kid with their Grandparents (even my own), I get the sting in my chest. My Dad would have been an amazing grand father. He dedicated his life to coaching kids and I know that he would have loved them to death and probably would have turned them into big time athletes!
In the end, I’m left to wonder what might have been as I navigate the often complicated world of raising children. But I’m still happy. I have a lot of amazing people in my life, who are always there for me whenever I need them. I still have my Mom, who is an amazing woman and who loves her grand kids! I love my kids and my wife and we have a great life together, filled with fun and laughter!
I know I’m not alone with this struggle either. Some of my close friends have been dealt the same cards as me, but we don’t really talk about it. Instead we act tough and pretend to be superheroes, I’d be Batman by the way, until the pain passes and we get back to normal lives.
I was lucky enough to be blessed with a great Dad and even though he left us way too soon, I have the memories and lessons he taught me. Which were many. I can only hope that someday my kids can look back and say the same about me.
Originally published on CanadianDad.com
Chris Read also read this at Dad 2.0 to a packed audience.