In just a few days I will be forty-four years old. It’s true. I double checked my birth certificate to be sure. The gray hairs are slowly winning the war over the dark resistance on my head and in my beard. Aging is a part of life, right? A rite of passage we all must take that beats the alternative. Acceptance of that opens the internal gates to eternal serenity. Or some crap like that. The jury is still out for me and a verdict doesn’t appear likely for some time; too many jurors want a say in the outcome.
I blinked and somehow my father is approaching seventy-six. It doesn’t seem possible. My once steadfast view of his immortality now shows cracks from reality’s persistent hammer and chisel. He’s valiantly holding on with every ounce of Italian determination he can muster. Regardless, the fight he’s facing we all face and no one gets out alive.
Throughout my forty-four years, I’ve always kissed my father goodbye. Sometimes on the cheek after a hug but usually on the lips. It has never been strange or unnatural but innately welcomed. He has left my house and been backing out of the driveway and I’ve rushed out the door to catch him upon cognizance that I missed our kiss. It isn’t out of habit or ritual. I genuinely feel a love for him that is deep and powerful. He’s been there selflessly for me since I can remember. As time passes, the fact that one day our kiss will be a final goodbye weighs on me more and more often.
Our practice of open affection has propagated to my own sons and I am forever grateful for it. I hope they insist on never missing that goodbye as I have with my father. There is a comfort there you simply can’t find anywhere else, a next level bond that recurrently goes away as we get older for no reason.
So where am I going with all of this? Glad you asked!
For more than fifteen years my father has battled Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Every year might be his last. I know that and I think on some level he does as well. I religiously kissed him goodbye before his diagnosis. I faithfully continue to do so to this day. There is no real way to make up for lost time other than to begin at the moment of recognition.
Benjamin Franklin said “Lost time is never found again” and that fact comes into focus as we get older and we wake up each day on the back nine of our expected lives. And that is my point. Time waits for no one. It marches on and apathetically carries our mortality on its back with every step. I’m not a relationship expert. I’m just a man who sees the importance of showing love when you feel it, of saying it when want to and doing it without recourse.
The prophet Elisha said “let me kiss my father and mother goodbye and then I will come with you.” I’ll never know which kiss I give my father will truly be a goodbye kiss. I continue at each and every parting not because it might be our last but because I want to build a memory of all those kisses to carry with me in memory of him when he is gone. It is paramount that he know how much he meant to me and how much I loved him while he was here. Standing at a pulpit and looking over a coffin doesn’t let the person inside know how you felt.
Show them now.