Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Off the Trails

So, in a recent span of four weeks, I effectively lost the three most important male influences in my life. Not necessarily role models because some of what influenced me was witnessing what not to do, but certainly the most influential people on my life Two through death and one through what I will loosely call exposure therapy.

My best friend's father died in mid August. He had cancer, but had been doing relatively well with treatment and had one last appointment for chemo. He was in his sixties, which is not tragically young, but clearly not so old these days that anyone would have expected him to pass away, particularly since he was not in bad health (other than having cancer, of course). It was rough to see his wife and sons try to deal with this loss, three people I care deeply about. And, this man, the first man who I've known to be able to freely and openly express his love, had always been a bit of a dream to me - the father I wanted to model myself after. He loved his kids in a way that my parents never seemed to be capable of - unconditional support, warm embraces and constant affection, firm parenting with clear consequences. He was just a wonderful, loving, amazing man. I'm not saying perfect - his hubris got him into some trouble, he learned some harsh lessons, and his devotion to his sons sometimes clouded his judgment. But, still...he was like a second father to me; the father that I wish I had.

My grandfather passed away in mid September. He was 88 and it was certainly no real surprise. He had issues with his heart for the better part of three decades and had recently lost kidney function, requiring him to get dialysis twice a week. We had all noticed that he did not have the energy nor the mental acuity that he used to have, but he was still "there" and was living his life. I knew he'd be gone soon, but I was not quite ready to let go of this giant from my childhood.

Both of these were men who I considered surrogate fathers and who loved me as a son in return. It sounds corny to say, almost as if I'm taking it from the dialogue of a TV show, but both men said those very words to me. I'll never forget hearing my grandfather say it on the phone one day, nor the moment when the younger son of my friend's father hugged me close, and through his tears, whispered in my ear "he always thought of you as a son".

I need an entirely separate post to hash through my recent experiences with my father. This is already rather long and writing about Dad will only extend it to a point beyond that threshold of any reader's patience or interest. I will say this, though, any illusions I still had about my father have been dissolved and I think I finally see him in full.

What I am trying to do is not to memorialize these men or the end of my relationships with them, but to mourn the loss of guideposts in my life. They gave me a pretty good start, but that does not change the fact that I still feel adrift without them. They were my strategic reserve - I rarely needed them, if ever. But, it provided a great deal of comfort having them in my life. Beyond this and my fear of continuing to find my way without them, I can't help feeling a bit more alone. My life is lessened without them.

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