Yesterday marks 10 years to the day since my father died. A full decade I’ve gone now without my old man.
The loss of a parent, especially at a young age, is something that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It’s hard, in a way that I can’t describe, to move on from the gap that is left. Sure, watching parents divorce is tough (trust me, I saw that as well), but that doesn’t come anywhere near being completely stripped of their presence. At 15 years old, I was still growing up. I needed a strong, male influence in my life and I suddenly didn’t have one.
I had just gotten my permit. I remember driving by Miracle Hill to see him, right after we got my first car. When most people are homeless, they’re flat on their backs. Even in such dire straits, my father beamed with pride about me.
I got news of his death just the day before I was to be inducted into the National Honor Society. An event that should’ve been a source of pride for me was… empty. I was completely apathetic. What is there to celebrate when you can’t have everyone present that you would want to celebrate with?
When he spent some time in jail, we wrote letters back and forth. Having those letters now, it’s so nice having a physical memento of him. Paper that he physically wrote words to me, right from his own mind. A few times when I would mail him back, he would mention that the date on the letter and the post date didn’t line up, but that he knew I was pretty busy so he understood if it took a while to get back to him. Looking back on that, I am absolutely devastated with regret. His only connection with me were letters every few days, and I could have squeezed at least a few more notes in had I sent them more regularly.
My father was a brilliant man. He had drive and ambition like nobody I’ve ever met. He started his own business, and ran it successfully for quite some time. Had he not fallen victim to alcoholism, I know he would have done amazing things.
I regret that he didn’t live long enough to meet his grandchildren. I hate that he never got to meet my wife, though I have no doubt he would have approved of her. I wish so bad that he could’ve been at my high school and college graduation, to shake my hand and congratulate me. So many things that he never got to see, and I never got to experience his presence at.
I could go on and on about all the good memories that I have with him. And make no mistake, I do appreciate those memories. All the trips to go swimming and fishing behind the dam in the Enoree River. Staying at Putnam’s landing on Lake Murray every single weekend, in that old Airstream camper be had. Fireworks to rival professional shows every Independence Day and New Years. Fish fries in his shop, when people we didn’t even know would show up. And music… so much music. To say that my father knew how to have a good time is an understatement, and I am so fortunate for the time that I had with him.
Now, mind you, this in no way means that I don’t appreciate my mother. She raised me as a single parent from a young age. She made sacrifices that I can never fully express my appreciation for. She did absolutely everything she could to give me the best life possible, and she did a stellar job. I love her to death, and I am truly blessed that I do still have such a supportive parent still alive.
I speak of my father more often because now I can’t call him up and get his advice on something. I can’t invite him over for dinner. I can’t bring the kids by to let him see how big they’ve grown. For my mother, I still can. And I’ll admit, I don’t come anywhere near telling her just how much she means to me. I am who I am today, much because of how she raised me. That’s something that I hope I never begin to take for granted.
If both of your parents are still alive and in your life, realize how fortunate you are for that. Tell them that you love them. Visit them as often as you can. Hear the stories that they have and cherish them. You never know when they’ll be taken away, and you won’t get the chance to do all the things you meant to do.
In loving memory of Darren Hennett. 29 May 1961 – 29 November 2006
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