In Loving Memory…

Author’s Note: Several months ago, I had a dream about my late father. I don’t remember many details, only that I saw him and spoke with him; however within the dream I still knew that he had passed away. I awoke in the middle of this dream, blurring the lines of reality; I felt as though I had just spoken with Dad and he was simply in the other room. Once I was fully awake, I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote down the thoughts and feelings that were stirring in my head and heart.

Today is my father’s birthday, and I cannot think of a better time to share this piece, which is nearly verbatim what I wrote that morning after waking from the dream.
If I saw my dad again…
 First I would give him a hug, maybe even a kiss on the cheek-
the kind of expression that would have embarrassed me before.
I’d ask him where he’d been and how long he was staying.
Then, I’d ask if we could go see a movie, like we always used to.
No. Dinner first, then a movie. We’d have so much to talk about.
I’d tell him about my friends and my jobs
and all the things I’d learned from him, without even realizing it.
I’d tell him I finally learned how to tie a square knot,
after the years he spent trying to teach me how.
“Let’s go on a trip,” I’d say.
Maybe Chicago, like we did when I was 6.
We’d go swimming in the lake, and I’d show off how good of a swimmer I am now.
Then go to Wrigley Field for a Cubs game – something we never did.
We’d go downtown and eat at that place where he and Mom ate all the time.
 I’d ask him about his life and listen to his stories about college and how he met Mom.
We’d talk for hours. I’d try to listen, hanging onto every detail,
then anxiously eye the check, hoping that he’d pay.
I would tell him everything I never said.
That I wished he could have been around longer,
and that I’m heartbroken that my kids won’t meet him.
I’d apologize for all the times I acted like I didn’t care:
“There were plenty of times when I secretly hated you, just because it felt good.
I didn’t think you cared or I didn’t care if you cared. I just didn’t like you.
But now I see your heart; that you loved me so much that it hurt.
Nowadays I sometimes remind myself of you and I thank God that I do.

“You taught me how to talk to people, to let them know they matter.

The way you joked with the bank tellers and Mom’s co-workers, never too busy to chat.
I know that I talk to kids the same way you did,
 always down on their level, always with a smile.”
I’d ask about Grandpa and how things were when he died.
“Were you on good terms? What things did you not get a chance to say?
Did you know that he loved you? Did you know if he respected you?”
I’d sit and wait for him to answer, trying to catch every word, every emotion.
We’d get home late, but I wouldn’t be ready to sleep:
“Let me make a pot of coffee…or I could cook you something.”
But Dad would insist that it was time to go to bed.
He would sit down at his desk, saying “I’ve got a little work I need to do.”

“Dad…I have so much I still want to talk about.”

“Don’t worry, A.W.” he’d say, more stately than he did in life. “I’ll be here in the morning.”
Happy birthday, Dad.

My dad, Walt Swearingen, on his 60th birthday with his grandson

My dad and me, when I was in high school, working on a combine.


One thought on “In Loving Memory…

  1. Wow Andrew, that is really powerful. Thank you for sharing that. My father is currently terminally ill and I feel this way all the time, trying to hold onto every last word he says never knowing if another will come. You are a strong guy. Thank you for sharing.

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