I lost my dad when I was 21. I think I've said before, lost is such an inadequate word in that context, like I just lost track of him. In reality, he was the sun to my world and losing him was losing part of myself. He was larger than life, quirky, brilliant and weird. From him I learned that being called "weird" was just a person's way of trying to fence in what they couldn't understand. "You don't have to be like them," my parents would tell me, when I came home from school in tears because I was so weird. So I learned how to be an alien in this world, how to accept people and their limitations and how to not take myself too seriously. Being weird taught me how everyone is weird, really. There is no normal, because you can't average humanity. We are a maelstrom of ideas and passions and differences, and that's what makes life so interesting.
When he died, everything went a little off balance. I missed his monologues and his constant snark and his defiance of laws he considered optional, like speed limits. I missed being able to roll down the windows in his tiny little car and screaming in the wind until I went hoarse, because he didn't mind. I missed being shocked into laughter, the electricity when he would say something so unexpected that it jolted me. I missed being tiny, with a Daddy as tall as the ceiling and as broad as a tree, with giant tree trunk arms that could have wrapped around me a couple of times. I missed his cowboy boots clomp-clomping through my world, a step behind me, even when I was married and had a baby, right behind me.
It's been a long time now, and I don't miss him every day, not in the same way. One of the great gifts of God is that I still get to see him, in some ways. I stood in an endless checkout line yesterday and listened to Toby explain a computer game in great, great detail for upwards of 20 minutes, without stopping or losing track of his thought, and I thought, I bet Daddy loved listening to me like this. Even if what I was saying was basically filler, I bet he thrilled at the inner workings of my mind, the little hidden places inside there that I needed someone to understand.
Back at home, Toby walked just ahead of me, back into the house, still intent on explaining his world, his creation, and I walked just behind him, my boots clomp-clomping in rhythm with his sentences, and I hope that someday he will remember the way I heard him.