Today is Father’s Day.
My Dad died in 1978 at the age of 67 of lung cancer. A few days before his death as he felt the icy chill of death’s hand approaching he said to me, “it won’t be long now.” I said “I know.” I may have said something more comforting, more loving but if I did I don’t remember what it was.
And that occasion wasn’t the only time I didn’t say the things I wish I had said to him. As I reflect back in the years since his death about all the times we had together I realize never really told him how much I now realize I loved him. Oh, we had a good relationship and laughed together and had fun watching baseball, going fishing, talking about all sort of things, but I never took the opportunity while he was living to utter the words, sincerely, that he would have so loved to hear. I never really let him know how glad I was he was my father.
It’s not that I never told him I loved him. That happened every time we parted, on an almost daily basis. It’s that I never said it in such a way that it didn’t sound matter-of-fact and routine. I never took the occasion to sit down with him and let him know how much a part of me he became and remains to this day. I never told him that it was his example of fairness and good will toward people that has shaped my own approach to relationships. I never let him know that his skills in dealing with people, planted in me at an early age by his example, have helped me so much throughout my life. I never told him, even in those moments when we both knew he was dying when it might have meant so much to him, how much I needed him and wanted him in my life or how much I would miss him when he was gone.
Yet, somehow I think he knew, even if the words weren’t exchanged. He knew. And if there is any justice in the universe, he knows even now.
Why is it we human beings have so much trouble talking about the things that are most important when we have the opportunity? Why do we let such opportunities slip away? Why do we assume we’ll always have another chance?