I don’t remember what I thought when I first met you. I honestly don’t even remember our first meeting – period. I can remember meeting so many other people in my life – ask me about the first time I walked around my kindergarten class. I can remember sitting on the stairs in a house in Maryland when I was three, watching Dad keep an eye out for some idiot running around with a machete. I can remember holding the hand of a young girl who had just been hit by a car – the red and blue ambulance lights flashing across our faces – I was only four, then.
I remember meeting your oldest brother. He was tall and quiet, and I was thrown off at first by his appearance, because I was only six, but I knew heads were generally shaped a certain way, and his was different. He was nice though, and played with me until I got to know other kids in the neighborhood. I quickly forgot that he was considered “different” because of the way he looked. He was just Phil, my new older brother.
I remember meeting your other brother. He filled the room with his voice. He seemed nice, but he was so loud, I remember staying away from him. I remember meeting his wife. She wasn’t much quieter than him, but she seemed to adore me, and was very kind to me. When mom and dad started working and needed someone to watch me until it was time for school, I remember sleeping on the couch in her living room, the house was so quiet and cool. I have fond memories of both of them, and I still have the cassette tape she gave me, where all the songs had my name in them.
I even remember meeting your mother. She was measuring me for my Flower Girl shirt and skirt. I instantly liked her because she was the only person I could remember meeting who was even shorter than my mother.
You though. It seems like I went to sleep, woke up, and you had always just been there. Sometimes, I think I remember you greeting dad for the first time, but I don’t know if that’s an actual memory, or just my mind creating one to fill in the blank, because the first actual memory I have of you with my parents, was of you arguing with them the night before you married my sister. You were yelling at mom, and I heard dad tell you, “I know you’re mad, but she is still my wife, and you will talk to her with respect.”
I remember the wedding. I remember not really knowing much about you, but still hating you and admiring you in equal parts. I was only seven when you married sis, and it was the first wedding I had been a part of, so I had no idea how the whole marriage thing worked. As far as I could tell though, you had to be pretty friggin’ amazing for my sister to be willing to leave her entire family just to be with you. I remember everyone going “Awww!!” at the wedding when they asked me to speak a few words as a toast, and all I could do was cry because I thought I was losing my only sister. I remember the relief when I was told that I wasn’t losing her – I was gaining you. I could handle that thought. I already had one brother, and he wasn’t so bad (at the time) – what’s one more, you know? Plus, you came with two other brothers. Score! All the brothers a girl could want.
Then you gave me my oldest nephew. I mean, it was a joint effort between you and sis, but you did play a part in it. I don’t think I ever thanked you for that. He was – and still is – my favorite memory, and my favorite person (don’t tell your wife). We had our moments growing up, but that boy is my brother, and so much of that is thanks to you.
Marrying my sister didn’t mean you had to let me spend the night with you guys as often as you did. You didn’t have to walk with me through the neighborhood after dad died, letting me grieve in silence while you stood by, ready to be there if I called for you. I needed to get out of the house, but no one in the family wanted to go, and you alone spoke up, “I’ll go with her. Let’s go, Tiff.” You didn’t say a word when we got outside. I walked ahead of you a good couple feet, and you just followed. I don’t know how you knew I needed that. I don’t know if you even knew, but in the madhouse that followed dad’s death, that is one of the moments that stands out the most.
You didn’t have to let me stay at your place with you and sis after dad died. Yeah, you probably felt like you couldn’t turn me away – sis and I had just gone through the most devastating moment in our lives – but you would’ve had a solid reason. You had a full house of your own at the time. It was a two bedroom house, and you and sis were already having to share a room with your son, while your brother had the other room.
You didn’t have to let me come out and spend that summer with you and sis in Ohio. Yeah, it worked out for the best for you guys, cause you needed someone to watch him while you guys were working, but there were other people in the neighborhood.
You didn’t have to let me live with you guys when the summer was over, and start attending high school there, even though the alternative was sending me back to mom and having to face the possibility of me being killed or assaulted on the way to school. I did more growing up in that time with you guys, than I did at home with mom.
That was when your boy went from being my favorite little human being to being my brother.
You didn’t have to let mom and I live with you while we waited for the settlement to finish from dad’s death. You didn’t have to offer to teach me how to drive (I did apologize for scaring you with the clutch, right?). You didn’t have to step in and tell me when I was treating mom wrong, or ensure that what mom said – went. You were an atheist, through and through, but if mom said I was going to church with her on Sunday, my ass was to be out of bed, and upstairs, dressed and ready to go on time. You didn’t care that I didn’t want to go. That was my mother, and I would talk to her with respect.
That was when you went from being my brother-in-law to my being my father.
You and I didn’t always agree. You didn’t always like me, just as I didn’t always like you. There was one thing that never changed though. I always knew that – if I really needed you, I could’ve picked up the phone, and you would’ve came.
When you died, we weren’t talking to each other. We hadn’t talked in two years at that point. Both of us were insulted and hurt by the other, but I like to think that you still knew you were loved. I like to think you know you’re missed.
Speaking of your death though, I’m sorry we didn’t do things the way you wanted. You always said you didn’t want the big somber funeral. You wanted clowns, drinks, laughter. You wanted the whole amusement park feel to your “remembrance party.” You didn’t want people to be sad or crying, because that’s just not what you were about. Sis and your boy were pretty devastated by your death though, and the rest of your family needed that somber sort of funeral.
I think you’d be proud though. I read the eulogy Johnny wrote. It was touching, and it had humor. He did really well. There was no fighting (that I was told about anyway – I didn’t make it. Blame the Chinese government – I know I do), and there was a good turn out. Plus, they sang “Amazing Grace” and if I recall correctly, that was one of your favorite hymns. You certainly sang it often enough.
Your wife and son are both still trying to get their heads on straight, but I think you’d be proud of them, too. They’re making their way. Sis is slowly starting to write again. Your boy got your gift with art, and he’s making money off of it.
I’m trying to honor your funeral request in my own way. When I think of you and start getting sad, I try to remember something funny you did, or my favorite stories I’ve been told about you. One of my personal favorites is the way you kept proposing to sis while drunk off your ass. It took a while, but you finally got a “yes” out of her. Then there was the time you woke up with your boy sitting on your chest, holding a curtain rod. He gave you a smile, with those golden curls and blue eyes, looking for all the world like one of Michaelangelo’s cherubs, said “hi, daddy!” and then cracked you right between the eyes with the metal end of the rod. I’m fairly certain that’s where you got that scar from, but I could be wrong.
When I can’t do that, I find something fun to do instead. I play games, I read a book. I watch clips from “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”. I do what I can, to make me laugh. Because that’s what you would’ve wanted. You didn’t want to be the reason for somebody’s grief.
Today is a little bit harder to find a smile. It’s the third year anniversary of your death and Father’s Day. Rotten luck, I guess. I’m spending the day playing games and talking to friends. I’m trying not to get bogged down in the fact that you’re gone, but I wanted to take time today to tell you a few things, just in case you’d forgotten in your time away from us: You are loved. You are missed. You will not be forgotten.
Happy Father’s Day.