20 years in the blink of an eye

It’s amazing to me how quickly 20 years can pass. Yet here we are 20 years since the last time I spoke to my dad while he was on this side. In some ways that morning feels like it was ages ago, in so many other ways, it feels as if I have barely blinked. Memories are funny and beautiful if not beautifully heartbreaking things. It’s not hard to remember that morning as it obviously marked me. The day’s surrounding it are fuzzier. I remember my brother and I went to Pizza Hut the night before with some of our family that was visiting. I remember detesting Pizza Hut after that. I can’t have eaten it 5 times since that night. I know I haven’t set foot in that location since. Since it was a Saturday two days after the 4th, I remember we were going to shoot off fireworks. My dad had gotten up early started the barbecue and put some brisket and ribs on to have that night. I remember that my uncles finished cooking it since my dad wasn’t around. I don’t remember if I actually ate any of it.

I remember rushing on my bike that morning down to the spot my dad had gone fishing near our home. I remember getting down there and being stopped by my uncle and him telling me no breathing but a pulse. I remember the ambulance. I remember throwing my bike in the back of our truck and flying to the closest emergency room that was located in Prague. I remember the awful way the news was delivered. I remember the ride home with two guys that would step up and be instrumental in my life. I remember family and friends came from all over and descended on our home. I remember being overwhelmed by love and support. Then I remember being overwhelmed by people. I remember retreating to my room to get away, to sob, and to grasp for reality in a sea of what seemed like fiction and chaos.

I remember the next day at church. I remember I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to go mainly because I didn’t feel like having more people coming up to me not knowing what to say. It’s awful to think about now because I’m obviously thankful for the support and the love each has shown. I remember the whole sermon was dedicated to my dad and the impact he had in the church and community. It touched me greatly even more than I could’ve realized that day. I remember the funeral a couple of days later. I remember our closest family and friends. I remember people I hadn’t seen in years. I remember people I’d never met before or seen since. Each one of them had a story about how my dad had been instrumental in their lives.

20 years have gone by. It’s hard to believe. I have beautiful and beautifully heartbreaking memories of the 15 before those 20 years. I’ll always remember the camping and fishing trips to the lake. I’ll always remember that he introduced me to golf. I’ll always remember that he tried to be at every one of the events we were in. I’ll always remember those long family road trips he would take us on, stopping at every historic and natural landmark along the way. I know from these memories that he loved us and gave us everything in his ability to show it.

One of the other things I know for certain from all of those memories is that my dad deeply cherished people. I still have people ask me if I’m “Pete’s boy” whenever I give them my last name. Each one of them tell me what a good man he was and often share a story to back it up. I still have dreams about him. I still wonder what would be different if he had come back to us that July morning in 1996. I still try to live by his example of giving of myself to others. My dad wasn’t a perfect man by any means, but he always had a way to make other people’s lives better. I wish I had the ease that he had to be outgoing. I wish I didn’t have some of his other traits. I wish I had told him that morning 20 years ago that I loved him and that I was thankful he was my dad. I hope he always knew those things by the way I treated him. I still miss him, I still love him, and I’m still thankful he was my dad even though it was cut short. I know way too many others who have been less fortunate.

8 Responses to “20 years in the blink of an eye”

  1. Yasha Matthews says:

    I’m sure he knew it! He beamed with pride every time he talked about his family. He lived for his family!

    • philip says:

      Thanks Yasha, you’ve been instrumental in showing me more how he cared for others. I knew he did, but it’s always good to hear those stories from others

  2. G Alverson says:

    I read what you wrote about your Dad. I didn’t know him well but now count that as my loss for it was obvious that he loved his family and a lot of other people as well. I am not trying to replace your Dad but only to be an addition to your lives. Things are really hectic right now since Braeden and his kids are here, plus trying to pack to get ready for vacation . I want to write more if that is okay with you, when I have a little time to properly say what I feel. I have loved you for a long time but have done a poor job of expressing it to you. At times I have not known what to say so I said nothing for fear of saying the wrong thing. Emotionally most of us are very complex individuals and go through life in sync with very few people. There is a natural lack in our lives when we feel no one understands us and some people live their whole lives and pass on without finding a friend or a mate that we can consider a soul mate. The world has missed out on knowing some really great people. Only a handful have gotten to know the real Philip. I hope to be one of those special ones who know you well enough to call you “friend “. Will write more in a few days. Love, G

  3. I don’t remember Pizza Hut at all, or maybe I blocked it out. 🙂 I do remember all the other things, and I have occasional dreams as well. For a year or more afterward, I had a dream he showed back up every night. What a loss, but God’s grace met us so amazingly. Incredible. Thanks Philip.
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    • philip says:

      It was the location on Kickapoo; which is now closed. I can still picture the booth and being there with Vernon. Thanks Jason!

  4. Jeannita Stasyszen says:

    I see so much of your dad in each one of you. The way he would help others when they needed it. The way you love each other and your family. The way you go out of your way to make someone smile. He was so proud of his kids and would tell anyone about each one of you. That July 6, 1996 was the worst day of our lives and am so sorry we lost him and he lost seeing the amazing kids that are grown up and I am so proud of. God graced you with a wonderful father. We never understand why his life was cut so short but I am thankful for the time we had. He loved you all. I love you.