My dad always wanted to be a father. He never explicitly said that, but I could just gather it from the clues of his life.
When he was 16 he and his then girlfriend, Pam, became pregnant. The two wanted to get married but because they were so young their parents were required to give consent. Neither of which gave and the two didn’t see or speak to each other again for many years. My mother told me once that, that broke his heart.
To ease that pain my father tried to rescue a woman named Diane. She was already pregnant and my father stepped into the role of expecting dad and cared for the daughter she had. He would recount that he changed her diapers, fed her when she was hungry, and calmed her when she was fussy. She may not have been his blood but she was his is by name. And that was more than enough for him.
Then came me, when both these women were in their twenties. My parents told me repeatedly, but especially my pop, that I was wanted and planned. He joked that my mom talked him into it. “Can’t we have just one, just one little baby.” And clearly, we can see who won.
But like I said, my dad wanted to be a father.
Truthfully he was made for the role. In typical father caricature, He did like a beer or two, before he was sober. He liked to fish. He was a strong silent type, who peppered in random bits of wisdom, spoken in only short, clipped sentences. He never really was one to wax poetic about any topic. It was always precise response and right to the point.
My pop did have this uncanny ability of being right. He would tell me, after I told him how silly it was to get mad at traffic lights, “just you wait, Josh. You’ll see.” And by-god he was right. And I loved telling him how annoying it is that every light turned red in this town and they need to synchronize them.
He was truthfully, the most patient and strongest man I had ever met, and I am so happy I was able to tell him that before I couldn’t. He was my role model, and I strive to carry these very qualities.
Years before, He apologized to me once that he wasn’t a good father because he didn’t know what it was to be one. He didn’t have one when he was growing up. The only examples he did receive was an aloof, absent man who liked to drink. But him claiming that fault was/is not true. He knew what it was and what it took. And even to admit that, regardless of its validity, was someone with humility.
When I told my dad that I was gay, the very first thing he said to me, after an evening of processing this information silently, was that I was his son and he loved me no matter what.
My dad showed what it was to be a true man, with his kindness, his patience, his immense capacity for love, and admitting and owning his faults.
I tried to immortalize him in his obituary but of course, in true Josh fashion, I wasn’t concerned about double checking dates. So my dad hasn’t passed yet. That’ll be at the end of this month. So this man in this coffin is an imposter who stole my hat to complete the ruse.
He would have loved that joke. And I loved making him laugh.
One final story for those who aren’t friends with me on Facebook or have hidden me because of my incessant opinionated posts.
When I was getting the things for my father to wear for his final trip, I happened upon a tape, in a box filled with casettes, titled “dad and Joshua and mom.” I knew instantly what it was because I had found similar tapes when I was younger. My parents couldn’t afford a video camera, so my dad made due with his rad stereo and recorded audio of us just doing mundane things around the house. That night, before heading to the bar, I tasked my friend to make a trip to Target to buy a walk-man. Surprisingly and luckily, they still sell them. Once we got to the car we split the headphones and listened to the tape. On it was my 3-year-old self playing in a pool and my father talking to me. He asked me questions and talked about the next weekend when we were going up to my grandparents’ house for 4th of July.
My father went to the hospital on June 27th, a week before 4th of July. My heart started to race as I did the math to decipher when this could have happened.
When we got to the end of that side of the tape, I flipped it over and it began with my father announcing that it was a warm Sunday morning June the 26th. I broke down crying because, here was a moment of a very different morning 31 years prior, where we were having breakfast as a family.
My father may be gone, on July 28th, but he will never be forgotten. He will live on in the memories and hearts of all the lives he impacted.