Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dear Dad...

Tonight marks the one year anniversary since we received a phone call that forever changed our family.  When mom called to tell us that she was on her way to the hospital and they thought you had a heart attack, I was optimistic.  But still, I began praying and sort of wandered around aimlessly, just having a conversation with God about what was going on.  I made Randy dinner and he and I sat on the couch, staring at the TV screen, with zero coherence of what show was on. 

When the phone rang that second time and mom told Randy that you had died, my whole being went numb.  I couldn't quite process what news we'd just received, and it felt like we were trapped in some horrible nightmare.  I mean, really?  It didn't seem possible that we'd heard correctly, but for some inexplicable reason, there we were...making phone calls, flight arrangements, and other plans to prepare for our trip back to PA for something I had never once imagined having to do at our age. 

Randy left a few days before the kids and I did, which was heartwrenching.  I wanted to be able to comfort my husband; the kids to comfort their dad.  Ahh, the kids.  How in the world do you explain something like this to a 4 year old and 2 year old?  Their daddy being gone at random times isn't something that's new to the kids, so I was buying a few hours of time when I came home from work, because they just assumed daddy was working. 

But then came the evening after you died.  With their daddy back in PA, I bathed the kids and got them snuggled into their jammies.  I grabbed a picture from the wall (one of favorite ones of you and mom), and laid down with them in Gavin's bed to read them a goodnight story. 

After 'the end', I closed the book and brought out the picture.  Gavin recognized you and mom, and pointed you out to Brynn.  Tears filled my eyes...spilled down my cheeks...landed on Gavin's pillows as I explained, in the best way that I could that you were now an angel with God.  Gavin asked several questions, and I did as best I could answering them...all the while praying for strength to get through the conversation (although I knew it would be just one of many more we'd have with them).  Brynn lay very quietly, a nervous look on her little 2 year old face. 

Over the next few nights until we flew east to be with the family, the kids and I lay in Gavin's bed, where instead of the usual bed time story, I'd tell them about you.  I wanted to remind them that in a few days, we'd be heading out to be with daddy and a lot of family in Pennsylvania.  I wanted them to go to PA knowing why, but more importantly to go knowing who you were.  Sure, they knew their grandpa...Gavin remembered you visiting when Brynn was a baby.  Brynn knew you from the pictures we have around the house.  But the challenge of having family out of state, especially grandparents, is that our kids are left to learn who you are through us, notby spending time with you.  I wish they had the experience to know the amazing person you were in a different way, but we rely on our photos and memories to keep 'you' alive in them. 

I told them about one of the first times I had met you.  It was morning time, I had just gotten out of the shower and was getting ready for the day when mom called up the stairs.  "Erin...if you hear gunshots, don't be worried".  Really?  Gun shots?  I remember thinking, "where in the heck am I?".  Sure enough, I peered out the window and saw you and Randy standing on the back porch.  You had a shotgun on your shoulder aimed out into the backyard.  Some poor little groundhog was just going about his business...(When Gavin asked me what happened to the groundhog, I opted to share that you were just 'scaring' him out of the yard.  Thankfully, that answer appeased him.)

I told them about how you drove us through the fields out back of your house one day while Randy and I (well, I) held on for dear life in the back of the pick-up.  I'm most definitely not a 'country' girl, but when I came to visit you and mom, I would step out of my comfort zone (usually that's heels), and get a chance to do things that I never knew growing up.  Yes, I know riding in the back of a pick-up isn't all that 'wild and crazy'...but I remember you laughing as we went over bumps and I was obviously beyond nervous.

How about the time you helped me shoot my gun for the first time.  You and Randy set me up with some sort of a shotgun, and had a target in the backyard.  You gave me very specific safety instructions, made sure I was comfortable with everything, and stayed close by the entire time.  At one point, you had me brace myself up against the tree so I didn't end up falling flat on my back because of the kickback (is that what it's called?) from the gun.  I was scared the entire time, but knowing you and Randy were there to make sure I was being safe, I felt a little more 'at ease' (well, as 'at ease' as you can be with a gun on your shoulder).

I loved how you always made sure that my car was in perfect working order before I ever started my drive back across the state.  One day you even went to the store, bought me new brakes, and you and Randy installed them for me...all because you didn't feel safe letting me drive with the ones that were on my car.  You filled up my windshield fluid, made sure my oil was good, and would take the time to make sure I'd be ok for every mile I was on the road. 

Who could forget at our wedding, when you swapped spots with my friend Kelly Ann, so that my brother would unknowingly slide the garter up your leg?  Oh my gosh, I'm so glad the photographer captured the pictures that he did.  We laughed so hard...and my brother loves that memory from our wedding. 

And on our wedding day...you and mom dancing together, one of my absolute favorite pictures from the whole day.  You gave me such a great big hug that day, told me that I'm your daughter and that you'd do anything for me.  I felt so blessed to have married into a family where I was so immediately welcomed with open arms.

The void left behind by your amazing character and faith is one that is irreplaceable.  I have so many memories in the seemingly short time I knew you, and will share them all with our kids as they grow because there shouldn't be anyone who ever goes without knowing what an amazing man you were.  I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be your daughter-in-law and want you to know I am going to do my best to take care of your son and grandchildren.  Tonight we miss you, tomorrow will be no different.  You're in our hearts and thoughts and prayers daily.  Your stories and memory will live on so long as Randy and I are able to share them with our kids. 

Look over our family as we still mourn, still cope, still search for guidance as we grieve your passing.  Love you lots, dad.  Have fun in heaven without us...until we are all together again.

one of my favorite photos of you!

Geoff had no idea...

one of the funniest memories from the day (hence Ross' face!)

love you both!

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