To my dad,
A year ago today, you had the stroke that would take you away from us in two short weeks.
Shortly before that happened, my favorite band–the Avett Brothers–released a new album. You were always fascinated by what I was listening to. You would always ask me what radio stations I listened to in Durham, what new artists I enjoyed, what my favorite bands were doing.
You and I had different tastes in terms of “new” music, but we shared a love for all things music. I credit you with my love for oldies that most kids now don’t get the same experience with. But, that’s what happens when you grow up with a dad who owns a radio station.
But, back to the album. After your stroke, I found myself doing the same routine every day. I would wake up early, drive to the station to set that day’s logs, and then make the trek to the hospital. Everything I did up until the point I saw you each morning was filled with a sense of urgency – I HAD to get there and see you. And every day, I listened to Live and Die, because I didn’t know what else to do. Hearing that song reminded me of you, of home, and was something comforting in what was otherwise a time of uncertainty.
By default, that song became the theme to my days. The gel that held me together. It seems a little odd to say that, but to you, it won’t.
I made you a playlist of your own, and I would play it for you each day, along with the radio station. I put your favorites on it. Some Beatles, Roy Orbison, and others. I even put Somewhere in Time on it because that song was special to us. You walked me down the aisle to it.
You couldn’t talk, and the only time I really saw you awake was the first day I was there. But I hope you could hear it.
I am not the most demonstrative person. I have always been better at expressing myself through writing, but I’m trying to be better about this. I never thought I would have to say goodbye to you so soon, and I don’t think anything I could have said at time–or now–would have been good enough. One thing I have learned is that there is never enough time. Not even if you know what’s coming.
You weren’t perfect. But who this? I’m not even sure what perfection should be. All I want to be is happy and be a good person. You were those things. I say that means you did what you were supposed to do here. You made me and my mom happy – you took care of us.
I am glad that you didn’t have to worry about me when I got hurt, because I know you would been devastated. But I am selfish and want you here anyway. I don’t like that you’re gone and my mom is far away without you (though you should know that Paul and I are trying to get her up here!).
You know that I have never been an overtly religious person. But the oddest thing happened the night I got hurt. My last memory that evening was talking to a rider in my class before I was injured. Then I saw you.
Now, I have gotten to meet with the first responders who helped save my life that night, and I found out I was having some breathing issues and was in and out of consciousness. They wanted to fly me to UNC, but no one could fly that evening, so the ambulance driver got me to UNC in record time. Bet you would have appreciated that…seems my ambulance would have put your Mustang to shame that night.
Maybe it was my brain playing tricks on me, but I don’t think so. I saw you that night, and we talked without words. The next thing I remember is waking up and seeing Paul. I think you were looking after me. Maybe you’re not here in person with me anymore, but you were definitely there with me.
I am who I am because of you and Mom. As Paul and I say, we’re not perfect, but we were perfect for each other. I miss everything about you, even the things that drove me crazy.
Most of all, thank you. Because of you, I am stubborn enough to keep fighting for this recovery even when I just want to punch the wall or give up. And when I think I can’t do it, I hear your words very clearly in my head – “Yes, you can.”
We miss you here. It’s not fair. But that’s been made clear this year.
What matters is that we loved each other, and we knew it.
I still can’t sing every song right now – my voice is coming back, but it’s still a work in progress. But, you know the first song I could sing again in full? Our favorite.