My dad passed away on June 15, 2020.

I didn’t have time to fly home to say goodbye. I didn’t have time to even pack a suitcase. One minute his nurse was saying he was cracking jokes as always; the next.. he wasn’t.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way for him. He’d been through so much these last 3 years. The heart attack. Quadruple bypass surgery. He quit smoking. Changed his diet. Started exercising more. Made plans to return to work, and how he was going to enjoy his retirement. Then, the strokes hit. He was blind. Paralyzed. He fought back. Did the exercises his therapists gave him and asked for more. He wanted to get better. He would sneak in tiny steps when he thought no one was looking just so he could get that much closer to being himself again. He told me, over and over, that he knew he could walk, if only he could remember how to take that first step on his own again.

He never did.

I will always love my dad. I always knew I was loved, even when we fought like wolves going for the throat. I will value the memories. I will value the lessons he taught me, and I want to share two of the most important ones with you:

Be yourself.
My dad was absolutely set in his ways, and he taught me to always be true to myself and not care what anyone else thought. He taught me that anyone that truly loves me will understand, and if someone doesn’t love me, they don’t matter anyway. I’m grateful I learned this at a young age and kept it with me.

Don’t wait to live your life.
My entire life, I knew there was something up with my parents’ relationship. There were moments of happiness, but they weren’t happy. He sort of asked me once when I was really young how I’d feel if the two of them split, and I told him honestly that if it meant my parents were going to be happy, I’d be happy too. He changed the subject and I forgot all about it until over a decade later, after they’d gone through a horrible divorce and my dad told me that I was the only reason he stayed. This man sacrificed years of his own happiness to do what he thought was best for his son. I reminded him that I would have been okay with my parents splitting, and told him that I wished they would have – but I understood that he did what he did out of love. After the divorce, he kept reminding me how he’d always wanted to travel, but still wouldn’t do it. He always had reasons about why he shouldn’t, for years and years, until he finally did take a trip to Bali. In the weeks after his return, I don’t know if I’d ever heard him sound happier. He told me how he wished he’d gone long ago, but now he was going to go on a lot more trips. He would text me in the middle of the night the names of places we were going to go.

I will miss so many things about my dad. The conspiracy theories. The frustrated sighs he would give me when I’d tell him to eat better. The car talks. The race he never had against the Talon and I. His plans to move off grid in a geothermal setup. The safety I always felt knowing he was there looking out for me. The occasional dad wisdom in a random phone call or when he’d take me out for drinks and sinisterly watch his son get drunk and overly talkative. I’ll miss that feeling of calling my dad to tell him about achieving a new goal with my business or fitness. Any time I had a project that involved me designing a shirt, I had to get one made for him so that he could wear his son’s work too. He might not have always known what I was doing, but he knew that if I was achieving a goal, he was proud of me.

I am proud to be his son. I love you, dad.