One of the first memories I have of my dad is him teaching me to tie my shoes. This was shortly after we moved in with him, around thirty years ago. Hard to believe it was so long ago. Sitting me on the bed he showed me the loops, the ups, the downs, you know the technique of how to tie a shoe lace. Then he left the room telling me to repeat it, and now I can’t remember how many times, but it was enough that I still know how to tie shoe laces thirty years later.
Howard Wayne Wilson (technically my step father, but nonetheless he was the only dad I ever knew) passed away this week. I’m not going to attempt to write an eulogy here, just going to mention a few feelings and memories.
I’m not much of a crier, nonetheless there are tears in my eyes as I realize I will not see this man again on this side of life. In fact, I last saw him in 2008 when in the U.S. doing some fundraising.
My mom married my dad just a few months before my eighth birthday. He inherited four children after already raising his two biological sons. Here I was coming from having an abusive, alcoholic, biological father to a dad. A real dad. One who embraced me from the beginning. Whatever friction there was during that time in the family I was unaware of it. I cannot remember the specifics or details, yet I do remember the emotions, the feeling of safety and of being loved.
Not trying to say it was all fine and dandy. It wasn’t. I’m sure he must have expressed his frustration to my mom (unless he was scared of offending his new bride) in my inability to open up and embrace him. (It was not I who first called him daddy. That, if I am remembering correctly was my older sister Peggy.)
It wasn’t until much later, after I was married in fact, that he and I had a conversation about this. He actually cried. I was stunned. No need to rehash the whole talk here, but at the end I came to realize that he had always wanted to embrace me, and in his heart had done so. We came away from that moment with a renewed sense of our relationship, and I was finally able to see that he had been my father.
Not saying we were at odds when I was a kid, I have many fond memories of our life together.
He was a big part of shaping me to be who I am today. One of the most powerful ways he impacted my life was in freedom, more specifically the freedom for me to be who I am and to believe what I do. When I became a fanatical Christian, and got lost in the miry mud of Charismaticism, he never condemned. Never even told me off for being so judgmental of his seemingly unspiritual life. Perhaps he knew God well enough to know He would not leave me in that religious trap forever.
That freedom to find out who I was helped lead me to where I am today. I appreciate that, immensely.
When I got the Facebook message (being thousands of miles away does have it’s disadvantages) and I called my mom, the first thing I did that day was to mow the lawn. Another thing my dad taught me, and something that I have developed a love for since. Remembering these seemingly little things, that’s how I’m mourning.
I will not be at the funeral, but don’t worry, there is plenty of family for my mom and siblings. Instead I will continue to remember and find comfort in those memories.
Until we meet again dad, rest in peace.