Today, nineteen years have passed since you departed for your journey. I was so small when you left. Even so, sometimes it still feels like yesterday.
Mom recorded practically my every move I made when I little, so it’s hard for me to decipher what’s a legit memory and what’s something I’ve seen on tape. I distinctly remember us playing with my school bus, and how I had you write the dinosaurs’ names on the bottom of their feet.
I remember sitting in the bottom of our boat while you and Mom were fishing. I was coloring, and I broke a crayon. I cried, so we had to tape the crayon back together.
I remember telling you I didn’t need to breathe. I could hold my breath for thirty minutes. I think that was after we watched an episode of Rescue 911 where someone was saved after being under water for thirty minutes. After you left, Aunt Kay put up a pool, and I tried to hold my breath for thirty minutes. I never made it quite that long.
We watched a lot of Rescue 911. Did you know the show’s final episode aired only a couple months after you departed? Another episode I vividly remember was about a kid whose shoelace got stuck in an escalator. I always made sure my shoes were tied afterward.
There’s tons of video footage of you and I playing at the campground, where we spent our summers. You used to push me on the swings and help me fill my dumpster truck with sand. Then there’s footage of me at a year old, and you were making balloons. We had a balloon maker, and Mom’s in the background telling you not to let me play with the balloons, though you let me anyway. You loved making balloons. I always had lots of balloons on my birthdays when I was small.
Many of the memories of you are from home videos I used to watch over and over when I was a kid, so I could remember you. I haven’t watched them in years, since I don’t have a VHS player, and those home videos are stored away at Mom’s house. It’s hard to believe that they’re over twenty years old. I’ve wanted to convert them to DVD for years, especially after Grandma’s 80th birthday recording exploded in our VHS player at home. It hasn’t happened yet. I do hope I get to convert them one day, before it’s too late and my few memories of you are gone forever.
There are some memories I have of you that I know aren’t from recordings.
They’re from the day you departed. I know there are no recordings from that day.
Friday, June 28, 1996.
I woke up, just like any other day. I don’t remember much about that morning, just that Mom and you sat me down in the living room and said you had something to tell me.
You told me that you were going on a long journey. I remember thinking that you were getting better. You’d been sick for so long. I thought you meant you were going on a hunting trip. You loved hunting.
Then your whole family came over. I remember going outside with my cousins. One of them started taunting me, telling me that you were going to die. That angered me. I remember yelling that you weren’t, you were just going on a long journey. She told me that meant you were going to die.
I didn’t understand.
Then my Aunt Kay came to take me away. I remember sitting on your lap one final time. I don’t know if I knew it would be the last. In fact, I don’t remember much about our final moments together. It’s such a blur, and I wish I could remember more. I also don’t know which part of my memory is fabricated and which part is real, but I remember you saying something along the lines of:
“I’ll be looking over you until I come back.”
Maybe my brain made it up, though Mom told me that you believed in reincarnation.
Then I left with my aunt. I don’t know what happened next, but I know we ate Chinese food. Later, we brought food back for Mom. She was standing outside by the mailbox, and that’s when I knew.
You were gone.
That night, Mom and I stood outside with our neighbors. There were two stars brighter than all the rest. Mom told me they were your eyes looking down on us.
The next morning, June 29, 1996, I was baptized at the church down the street. Mom and I could both feel your presence in the church.
Over time, especially these last few years, I’ve questioned my faith many times. When I start to ask those questions, I think back to those two days.
We moved a couple months later, after Mom heard me talking to you in the middle of the night. I have no recollection whatsoever of this event happening. I do know you’ve visited me in my dreams a few times, but it’s been a long time.
Memory is funny, isn’t it?
I’ll never forget you, Daddy. I can’t believe it’ll be 20 years next year since you left for your journey. I hope you’re eating lots of jerky in Heaven.
Your Little Girl