When I was very young my Dad, who we would always call Pop, invented this silly game that he played with my older brother Scott. The game was called Lift Off. Pop would lay down on his back at one end of our living room with his knees pressed against his chest, then Scott would sit on my dad’s feet and the count down would begin. 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… 0… lift off, then Pop would extend his legs quickly and launch my brother through the air and across the room where a bunch of pillows had been set up to make a soft landing area. My mother told me I was too little to participate but that when I got older I would get to fly too.
A few weeks after my fourth birthday I was deemed big enough to play Lift Off. Excitedly I cleared the living room and set up pillows for the landing. My dad thought it would be a good idea to launch Scott first so I could see how it was done. I was standing by the landing sight when the count down for my brother started.
5… 4… 3… 2… 1… 0… lift off and zing, Scott was launched into the air. He looked so graceful flying through the air with a gigantic grin on his face. It was like he was moving in slow motion. Then in slow motion I saw Scott’s grin turn from happiness to horror when he realized he wasn’t going to land on the pillows.
Scott bounced off the fireplace mantle like a brick encased in Jell-O, then hit the floor hard. I swear I could hear the bone in his forearm snap, a sound that still haunts me and I will never forget.
My brother had indeed broken his arm. The game was over. Pop drove my brother to the hospital while I stayed home with mom. They still hadn’t returned when my bedtime rolled around. I cried in my pillow that night for hours feeling angry, disappointed and frustrated knowing I would never get to fly with my father.
Four years later my parents got a divorce. I lived with my mom and didn’t see very much of Pop until the end of my sophomore year in high school. That was when I decided I wanted to live with my dad. By that time a lot of water had passed under the bridge and we hardly knew each other. Two years later when I graduated we were still having trouble communicating with each other.
That summer I had found a seasonal job thousands of miles from home so that I could save money for a backpacking trip through Europe that I was planning. My plan was to work all summer in California, and then come home for a month before setting out over seas. Pop wasn’t crazy about my idea. He wanted me to start college right away just like my brother had. I was adamant though and he finally gave in.
I worked like the devil for three months earning the money I needed. A week before I left California I gave Pop a call to let him know when I would be arriving and to arrange a ride from the airport. On the phone our chitchat somehow turned into a real conversation and we ended up communicating for the first time in years. Before hanging up we both said I love you. Something we rarely did.
Two days later I received a call from my brother telling me Pop had died of a heart attack the night before. Pop’s death didn’t really hit me until I got home and was surrounded by strangers that felt a deep need to consol me.
I cried in my pillow that night for hours feeling angry, disappointed and frustrated. It was like I was four years old and realizing all over again I would never get to fly with my father.
Happy father’s day Pop, I love you and I miss you.
Have you told your father you love him lately? Do you want to leave me some love?