Well… You topped my Christmas tree this year. Kimberly saw somewhere that someone used pictures of family and friends to decorate their tree and liked the idea – so we did it. Since we think of you often we put you up top… front & center.
It’s been eight years already, eight years today. This one seems to have been the toughest for me. I feel like I’ve spoken to you more this year than I did when you were alive – which makes me feel like a pretty crappy son. But I imagine – or hope, maybe – that lots of folks have these conversations with their loved ones that have gone on. And I imagine we all think we’re crazy. Of course, crazy doesn’t bother me a bit – Ha!
Let me get right to what I wanted to say…
There’s no doubt in my mind you knew how much all three of us kids (four later on, counting Steph) loved and appreciated you. You stepped in (no pun intended) when life went weird and always treated us as your own. I still confuse people when I talk about my dads… they never really know which one I’m talking about. It would be easier if I referred to you as my step-dad I suppose, but I feel that would be incredibly disrespectful because we never were step-kids – always simply your kids. (There was one time I referred to dad as my “real” dad… and mom quickly asked, “Well, what’s Steve then? Your fake dad? Is he made of plastic?” … so the world will just have to figure out who I’m talking about on their own.)
It had to be awkward and difficult for you too… Even if it never did seem to be an issue. I love how you made sure we understood we just had a bigger family than most. So – Thank you!
Just so you know… I don’t really remember much from before you. Bits and pieces, maybe. I’m sure I was old enough that I should remember more – But, my first real memory is the day you and mom woke us up while we were at dad’s house. I remember all meeting in the living room and how weird it was to see you, mom, and dad together (I’m pretty sure their was a police officer there too – which was just as weird as you waking us up at dad’s house). And then y’all explaining how we were going to go live with you and mom. I really have no idea how I felt about it at the time, but it’s clear to see everything worked out just the way it was supposed to. Your tact, your presence, your calmness about it all – well, again, just thank you.
I see so many broken homes and blended families today that are incredibly dysfunctional – where the kids are so much more grown up than the adults, where the adults yell and fight each other over trivial things… and I thank God you guys didn’t act like that.
I have avoided regrets and live with very few of them. Very few. I really can think of just a couple – but one of them is that I didn’t go to your wedding in Texas. Sure, I was working and taking off isn’t an easy thing to do. BUT, for your wedding, surely my boss would have let me go – he was kind of a push over in many ways anyhow. I can’t even remember why I thought it wasn’t a big enough deal to miss work… I was just STUPID. I had no animosity or qualm with you, the wedding, Kim & Steph… Nothing, I just didn’t think – and I missed one of the biggest days of your life. Sorry! If I could go back and change it, I would in a heartbeat.
I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. Not just because it’s December, mainly because of some advice I’d like to get from you… Although there are certain times of the year I can’t help but think of you:
Of course December is hard… December 27. You held on through Christmas. Man it’s hard. I make myself put up Christmas lights, I force myself to get in the Holiday spirit – because as much as you pretended to put on a “Bah Hum Bug” front, you always made Christmas big for us. So I want to do it for my kids too… But you leaving two days after Christmas makes it difficult sometimes.
Every June… your birthday, Father’s Day. It’s ironic to me how you were born just 2 days after Father’s Day (and so every few years your birthday was on Father’s Day) and you were such an awesome father, yet you never had children of your own.
Every Thanksgiving. Mainly because of our last Thanksgiving together. How you knew it was the last, and so you gathered us all together. I suppose I learned from my mistake of missing your wedding – I wasn’t missing it. To be honest, I didn’t really believe you when you said you thought this may be your last Thanksgiving and you weren’t sure if you’d be here for Christmas. When you took me to your bedroom, and told me how proud of me you were. When you explained that you wanted me to take the rocking chair that you got for your first Christmas, and how you took care of it for your entire life – and you didn’t want it ruined, or abused, but you wanted my kids to have it and enjoy it – and you knew I’d take care of it… We have. I cherish that little chair. The kids have just about grown out of it, but I plan on passing it down to one of them someday.
So, that advice I mentioned. You were always so big into working for yourself, and insistent on being your own boss… You did it twice – creating your own business, even when you had to work at a job, you had something independent of that. I’ve kicked it around and have an idea or two I’d love to try (no, dad – I won’t be leaving my corporate job anytime soon; this is something I can build while working my day gig), but don’t have the experience you had. I wish you would have shared the nuts-and-bolts of entrepreneurship with me. I was so proud of you when you opened the car lot… I don’t suppose you wrote it all down step-by-step and left it lying around somewhere did you? I bet you’d just tell me to go read so-and-so’s book too, but surely, you’ve got some great wisdom to share…
The kids are doing great. Noah is 10 already – time is flying, he’s a pretty smart kid, but a bit like his daddy and going to get in trouble if he doesn’t learn when to quit joking and be serious. Kaity, she was so tiny when you left… 8 years old now, and beautiful, and just as sweet as can be. We had a third a few years ago – in June. The due date was right around your birthday, so we were hoping to have her on your birthday, or Father’s Day. She came on the 22nd, though, we named her Annabelle Stephanie Leigh – it was going to just be Annabelle Leigh, but we wanted to honor you. She’s our wild child – full of fire…
I’ll have to let the others tell you how they’re doing. It’s been a tough ride.
Yes – we’re still apart of that “cult.” Although, I’m pretty sure you understand it’s not a cult anymore. I remember when you told me, “Too many people die in the name of Jesus and God.” My thought was (even if I couldn’t tell you at the time), “That’s more of an argument for Jesus than against Him…” The very fact that people throughout history have thought so much about their Deity that they would willingly die for it tells me it’s pretty important. You were always a pretty strong patriot – you always appreciated the military folks, and those that founded our nation because they thought so much about our liberty they were willing to die for it.
Trusting God is what has gotten me through these years. I have no idea how folks do it without Him. I can’t understand how people (as common as it is) blame Him, and walk away from Him when something like this happens… I’ve been so grateful that He’s a big enough God that when I want to sob, and ask “WHY?” He can handle it… He can listen to me and not get angry with my ignorance. Of course He understands pain and loss…
Anyhow, what’s done is done and there’s no changing it now. You lived a short but full life… You made a difference in at least 4 kid’s lives. You were your own man, loved people, dreamed big. I’ll leave all the judging up to the Judge.
Someone (Uncle Gerry maybe?) keeps your grave looking nice – which made me proud since I don’t get to make it up there hardly ever…
The kid’s will be getting up soon… So it’s time for me to make today the best day for them possible. Tonight we’re going to go out to eat, stop by the church to pray, then take them, to see a cool Christmas Light display – the family that put’s it on collects food for the food bank, pretty cool deal…