Jul 8, 2011

No Final Regrets

My dad made one last surprise visit - in my dream last night - on the day that he was about to die. I walked beside him and put my hand on his unsteady back and he looked over, only a bit surprised and a lot happy, and said in a weak but familiar voice, "Hey, kiddo."

We sat on the pier and talked about not too much. Told him that my brother and I had good jobs (on a fishing boat), pointed out a spectacular white bird with red-tipped wings. He laughed and said we could return his new piece of carry-on luggage we'd stored in the barn (guess you really can't take it with you :)

Our real-life last visit was a lot like this. Weak, grey as a ghost, gaunt, but still strong-willed enough to take 90 minutes of bus-skytrain-bus then 5-block walk to visit his grandkids. I somehow knew enough to not just leave him with the boys and go to work. We sat in the living room enjoying 3 generations of Juliusson men, talking about the Willie Nelson concert he'd watched twice the night before, making him coffee and a cheese sandwich. As he started the long walk back to the bus stop in his grey sweats and blue t-shirt, I offered him a ride and he accepted - he was that weak.

I didn't officially know it was his last visit, but wouldn't change much even if I had. We just spent time together, loved the boys together, gave each other what we needed.

As I woke up from the dream I mused on how once again I didn't say in words what was being spoken just by being present together in those last moments:
I'm carrying forward the best of what you taught and showed me, the best of who you are. I'm a good, honest, hard-working man. I chop wood and take care of my family and am last to bed after turning out all the lights. I question authority and speak Truth to power. I play guitar and write Santa Claus poems and infuse Joy into the world.

And most importantly, out of all the dads in the world, I'd choose you every time
If I play the "what if today is your last day" game, I wouldn't feel regrets about how I'm living, who I am, what I've done or haven't done. My only sadness would be not getting to see my boys grow up, see who they're going to become, and walk with them along that journey. Not growing old with my wife, smiling arm in arm as we watch our children and grandchildren blossoming into the world. And hearing in their smiles, their good lives, and maybe even in their voices that the best of me lives on through them, and that of all the dads in the world, they'd choose me every time.

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