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Nothing more I can say

Stop the Presses column by Chris Graham

312_stopthepresses.jpgIt’s really not that important – whatever it was.
Pick up the phone. Stop by and visit.
It won’t be easy. I’m not saying that it will be.
But what happens if, say, you haven’t spoken to your, oh, I don’t know, your dad, in two years, and then one day he up and dies?
Here’s what happens …
I will never get the chance to say another word to my dad – good, bad or indifferent.

The details of how we became estranged seem so silly now – well, OK, so they don’t. I can still get fired-up PO’d at what happened, but I’ll leave it at it was two years ago this month, and I vowed at that time not to ever speak to him again if he lived to be 100, and given that my phone never rang, and my front door never was graced with his presence, either, I went on assuming that the feeling was mutual.

Dad and I had a … strange … relationship from the get-go. He worked a second-shift job from my earliest memories, which means I basically never saw him once I was in school.

He had nothing to do with my baseball and basketball games – he went to a grand total of two of them, both the same week, when I was 10.
I remember being as proud as a 10-year-old kid can be that I hit a home run in one of them.
Dad got to see me hit a home run.
I only hit two of them in my entire Little League career.
And he was there for that one.

My parents got divorced when I was 13 – Dad left Mom to settle in with the woman who became his second wife. And that was actually worse than I describe it – because she didn’t really like having us around, and her daughter called my sister and me “white trash” in front of the both of them, and neither one of them stuck up for us when she did it.
I’ll never forget that as long as I live.

Somehow, some way, Dad and I started forging something of a relationship when I was in college. I tried to get out to his house to see him at least every other weekend, and though we had precisely nothing in common – Dad was into cars and tinkering with things around the house, with me being into team sports and talking politics and that kind of thing – we managed to learn to enjoy each other’s company.

billygraham.gifIt was to a point where I made sure that Dad was a part of my wedding in 2000 – we even rented him a tux, knowing that he hated to dress up in much more than jeans and a muscle T-shirt, and that he might not in the end look all that bad if he’d just let us take care of things for the day.
That’s the picture that you’re looking at right now.
He didn’t clean up all that bad, did he?

I guess I’m clinging to that as a happy time because there weren’t many other ones.
And now that he’s passed on, and that he left behind three ex-wives, and that I as his oldest child have been left in charge of things like planning a funeral that is supposed to seamlessly incorporate a bunch of people who can’t stand each other and can’t stand me and can’t stand themselves most of the time, well, we ain’t exactly heaping the happy times on here or anything.

But that’s not what’s at the forefront of my mind right now.
This is – he’s gone.
And as much as I was being completely honest with myself when I said two years ago that I never wanted anything to do with the guy again, ever, I know things would have come around.
I mean, Dad was all of 54, and I am right now 35. Surely before he reached his natural life expectancy – and he had 25, 30 good years left to go, at the least – one of the two of us would have gotten over that stubborn streak that was/is apparently embedded in our DNA and made something in the way of amends.

That it will never happen will top the list of life regrets for me.
Which is why I am pleading with you to be even just a little bit more of an adult than I was.
Seriously. Life’s too short. Way too short.


Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.

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