On September 28, 1988, my father died; his aorta burst due to complications from what was later determined to be Marfan Syndrome. I was 15 years old. He was 37 years, 25 days old.
As of today, I am 37 years, 27 days old.
Like anyone else that has lost a loved one, I miss my dad. I wonder how things might have been had he lived longer. I wonder if he would have liked the “adult me” or if he understood the “me” that he knew.
The circumstances of his death were also fairly unique and have brought up a whole other series of questions that I have pondered ever since. For example, because of his death, my family was made aware of the issues around Marfan Syndrome. I was later diagnosed with it and had to have aortic valve replacement surgery to correct the issue that resulted in my father’s death. Without his death, I would not have known and would have met a similar fate. My sister and my aunt would have as well. This certainly puts the initial senselessness of his death in a different light, which affects my thinking about a lot of metaphysical issues.
But having outlived him now in both senses of the word (living beyond him and living a longer span), I wonder about different aspects of what might have been. For example, as I grew up, I held a picture of my dad in my head as a clue to what I would look like as an adult. Now, I have no roadmap at all. The picture of my dad is of a 37-year-old man. I don’t have a clue as to what I’ll be like at 45, 50, 70, etc. Granted, we’re not twins but I’ve always favored my dad in a lot of ways.
Also, being a smartass 15-year-old at the time of his death, I always thought of him as “old.” Now, I realize just how young he was. And, looking at my hairline, I regret the ribbing I always gave him for his “hair peninsula”. I could only dream of having such a mass on my scalp these days.
I’ve always had some sense of wanting to be a writer. I remember when I was in third grade I wrote a “book” about a boy who wanted a pocket knife for Christmas. He asked Santa Claus and his parents for one and prayed for one as well. It was touch-and-go for a bit, but by golly he got one. The end. As you can guess, it was my first attempt at semi-autobiographical fiction.
I also remember writing a science fiction story in fourth grade. It was heavily influence by (i.e. ripped off from) Star Wars. I let my dad read it. I don’t remember exactly what he said (my memory fades to more of an impression of the event than a recording), but essentially he said it was a good story but that I should write one that I actually made up myself. I remember being a little chagrined at being called on my plagiarism (at least, my 9 year old’s sense of it), but also feeling like I’ve stumbled upon something good in what I did. It was my first honest critique. My dad was honest, but encouraging. It still makes me smile.
I always had a sense that I was growing into becoming my dad…at least, I always hoped to. Not a clone of him, but at least something of him. An extension of his presence, I suppose. Now I realize that ship has sailed. I am something of my dad, but I’m also something else entirely and am moving into uncharted waters. I’m sad, hopeful, and more than little trepidatious at the development.