Twenty Years

Dad's Gravestone
It's weird to see your name on a gravestone.

Today, my father has been dead for 20 years.

Nearly two thirds of my life.

I clued into this morbid milestone a few months ago. It’s weird to be able to describe my dad in that way: “he’s been dead for twenty years”.

I’ve written many times about how my dad and how I wish I could have known him as an adult. As a parent of an adult child. As a grandparent. I still struggle with picturing him in those roles because I never knew him outside of his role as the father of young children/pre-teens.

I don’t know if we would have gotten along or fought like cats and dogs during my teen years. My mum says we would have gotten along. I believe her, but at the same time, I keep questioning her in the back of my head “Are you sure? How do you know?” It feels cruel to doubt my mother because my parents had been married for 16 years and had been high school sweethearts so it’s not like she didn’t know him incredibly well.

But I still wonder sometimes.

This past Easter, Sean, Flora and I visited my father’s grave. That was when I took this picture. I’m not sure why I took it, because it’s not like I forgot what his gravestone looks like. I felt compelled to for some reason though so I pulled out my phone and snapped one.

Seeing my name on the stone is starting to feel weird now that I’m an adult and not a teenager.

When I was in my last year of high school, I used to visit Dad’s grave often. I used to come in the time I had between school and work when it would take too long to drive home and back into town again. Instead, I drove back roads aimlessly (as aimless as one can get with a specific start time for a work shift) and often ended up at the graveyard. It was quiet and I used the time to think. I’d spend a few minutes there, then drive off, go to work, do my shift and go home again. I’m not sure if I ever told anyone I was going there.

But back to the present. While it wasn’t the first time I had brought Sean to my father’s grave, it was the first time Flora had been there. The three of us stood there and we tried to explain to Flora in the simplest, non-scary terms where we were and what it was. I’m sure we failed miserably, but since she is still so young, she will likely never remember the conversation with any great accuracy.

Standing there with my husband and daughter, I became overcome with emotion. I hadn’t cried at my father’s grave in years. But standing there with Sean and Flora, trying to do a sort of introduction for my daughter and her grandfather overwhelmed me to the point that I couldn’t talk. Sean took Flora for a walk and I tried to tell my dad about his granddaughter. I could hardly get the words out so I hope my energy went out into the universe. That somehow, my father would know that he was remembered, and loved by his family – including those that never actually knew him.

Every once in awhile, Flora asks who my dad is when she sees him in pictures. I tell her that’s “Grampy Marty. He’s Mummy’s daddy and he’s in Heaven now.” A short explanation is enough for her right now. She accepts it and we move to the next picture. I’ll tell her more as she grows up. I want her to have an idea of who he was.

I love you Dad. I’ll always wish you could have seen the results of how you and Mum raised Kyla and I. I’d like to think we’ve taken on a lot of your good traits – and some of your bad. As Flora grows older, I will watch for your traits in her. I just hope I can still see them with so much time gone by since I saw them in you.

6 thoughts on “Twenty Years”

  1. Well Melissa and Kyla, it has been a long time and indeed marks an unpleasant anniversary. Obviously you know your Dad better than me. But, what I remember of your Dad is that he was one of my favorite uncles. What was cool about him – among many other things – is that he always had time for you. Even as a little kid, I remember talking to him about things that were probably totally uninteresting to him but he sat there intently, let me tell my story and he had relevant comments to add. When it came down to it – your dad gave a shit. He cared about people – he loved life and he most definitely deeply loves his family and most certainly little Flora!

    I can’t imagine how you feel but since Vicki brought this anniversary to my attention – I too feel a deep seeded emptiness where my Uncle Marty used to live. I drive by things in Perth and remember my uncle lived there. I go up through Cobden and remember the beautiful home you had and such great memories made and of course, I will never drive by Picton without remembering the severe sense of loss – two young girls left alone in this world without their dad – a man who is as much an example today of an admirable person as he was many years ago.

    I loved your Dad. He is sorely missed and like you I wish he was still here because he had so much to offer everyone in his presence! I hope we all meet again someday in heaven or wherever we can all be together. I just wanted you to know that your dad meant a lot to a lot of people!!!

    Sincerely, your cousin Hal

    • Thank you for commenting Hal – your words mean a lot to me. I am grateful for your perspective. I knew my dad as well as any kid knows their parent, but since kids are ultimately self-centred, I probably don’t know nearly as much as I think I do.

      I just do my best to raise my own child right, with the values my parents instilled in me (in tandem with the values Sean’s parents instilled in him of course). I think that is all any of us can ask.

  2. thanks for posting this. it brought tears to my eyes while on the streetcar this morning. i lost my dad quite suddenly in 2003 and think about him all the time, especially when planning for my future.

    anyone who had a hand in raising you must have been a wonderful person. i’m sorry for your loss, but i am grateful that you’ve shared this post.

    • Wow Rachel, what a lovely thing to say. Thank you.

      I’m sorry about your dad. It’s hard not to wonder “what would he think?” when you’re considering life choices.

  3. My dear Melissa, Uncle Gary and I both remember that time very vividly and we were thinking of you and Kyla on Tuesday . Then Vicki sent me the link to this site and I read your blog. That evening Kyla called me to remenisce and many wonderful and sad memories came flooding back. As you know I too, lost a parent when I was 17, a bit older than you but it didn’t change the fact that I lost a parent and even after 50 some years the hurt and lost feeling still hangs on. I too, have wondered what my mother would have thought of my children and how she would have felt about who I am now. However, I cannot express it as beautifully as you do here. Much love to you and your family. I am sure that Dad is watching over you all.


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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.
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