A few years back, my father suddenly passed away. Compared to other father/son relationships we had a typical bond but we were certainly two completely different minded individuals. Despite this slight disconnect and as I found out later a lack of transparency, Dad and I always had great conversations about the day-to-day activities in our lives. In those moments, Dad gave me great advice and peace of mind even though he struggled finding his own peace of mind for most of his life.
In the first year after his death, I often found myself talking out loud to Dad about many different events that occurred in my life since I lost him. I found it very therapeutic when I sought his advice even though I knew I wasn’t going to receive a straightforward answer from beyond.
Shortly after Dad died, my wife gave birth to our son, which would have been his first grandchild. I always brought my son up in the conversations with the air around me, hoping somehow that Dad could listen to what I was saying. Life became busier and tiresome when constantly attending to a newborn baby, so my conversations aimed at Dad waned.
Two years ago this month on the day which would have been his 71st birthday, I decided to send an e-mail to Dad’s old America Online account. I loved how he hung on to that account years after we all had those ubiquitous AOL addresses in the middle of the 1990’s. With an e-mail address like that one would think Dad had no idea how to transition into the digital age. He shall not be judged; Dad was a “Napster Master” at the age of 56 and later in life he loved his fantasy football online. Dad drove my mom nuts with his hours of roster moves every week during the NFL season.
In the e-mail I talked about how I love my family, that I was proud to be his son and a few personal family details that Dad and I could only have a conversation about. When I sent the e-mail, I could still hear his voice offering advice on the phone or when I used to visit home more often. It turned out the e-mail address was still active because I did not get a delivery failure message. I’d like to think he still checked his e-mail somewhere close to my presence.
Since that first e-mail I’ve sent four more in the last two years. They’ve all kicked back to me so it seems Dad’s AOL account has been taken off of the grid. Unless ALL of AOL is off of the grid! But it doesn’t matter to me if Dad can’t read the messages I intended for him, what’s important to me is the peace I get in composing those e-mails. Collecting my thoughts and sending them to Dad remind me of the nights we talked in my bedroom about the challenges of growing up while watching the old 12:30 Late Night With David Letterman show on NBC. They remind me of the phone conversations we had when I first moved out on my own. They remind me of the time when he found out he was going to be a grandfather. Tangible words on the screen that I would have said to Dad in person. Words that were fading from my consciousness due to a lack of sleep, an increase in children’s television viewing and the inability to simply find time to relax.
I miss Dad, but I was blessed to have him in my life all of these years. Occasionally I will get a hint that Dad is watching me from afar but at the same time close by. Other times I don’t. I assume he’s downloading free music somewhere when he’s not around. Pretty soon I’ll send him another e-mail since his grandson is going to turn 3 in less than a month. I’ll talk about a variety of topics and ask him a few questions about the problems I’m facing in 2016.
If I don’t get a reply to my questions I understand. It’s the start of fantasy football season.