If you would have told me 40 years ago that 40 years would seem like the blink of an eye, I would have laughed at you. I might have given you a little benefit of the doubt, but like any teenager, I would have been laughing inside. Time seemed to move so slowly then. All the things I wanted to do, wanted to be, and the freedoms I thought I would have seemed so far in the future, but looking back now, they were just split seconds of time.
40 years ago this July my world changed forever. Now, in reality, that happens a lot throughout our lives. Things that bring great joy, births, weddings, etc., bring monumental change. Traumatic things do the same. However, as I look back on this, it came at a time in my life when I was quite vulnerable. I was 13. I was awkward, geeky, chubby, and felt oh so out of place. I was struggling with everything life was throwing at me.
It was summer and I had been spending tons of time with my dad (in reality, my step-dad, but he was the only dad I knew then and he had committed himself to raising me, he was my dad). He was laid off from work, depressed, and struggling in his own life. He was just 36. He was cheating on my mom, but they were trying to work through things, it wasn't going all that well, though.
He and I spent lots of time the beginning of that summer going to get parts for motorcycles and the GTO he had been fixing up. We would sit and talk for hours about life, about the choices that would be looming ahead of me as a teenager, about how he wanted to be there for me in those choices and that if I wanted to try things, he would be there with me to teach me the right way. Drinking, smoking weed, nothing seemed off the table, although those things were really not on my radar at that point and never really did become a focus for me. I think years of watching people have no memory have the day before, or sometimes days, gave me a real wariness for partaking in altering substances, and I believe that God's hand of protection was already on me at that point in my life.
Suddenly, everything changed. He didn't come home. The phone rang in the middle of the night. A woman was dead. He was hanging on by a thread. I never say him alive again. Mom wouldn't let me see him in the hospital, he was in bad shape. I was there to hear the neurologist tell us that he was paralyzed from the chest down, he would never walk again. 2 days later, he was gone. He went into cardiac arrest and they couldn't bring him out of it.
I was 13, my mom was just 29. Everything changed from that moment.
I remember lying in bed at night with my window open thinking I could hear the sound of the motorcycle coming...on a still night I could hear him from a couple of miles away, especially when he had the straight pipes on the bike, but it was always a phantom sound, that bike would never roll up the road again. In fact, it had been parted out very quickly after his death, a tradition of bikers back then.
Even now, 40 years later, I long to hear that motorcycle come down the road. I wonder what he would think of me now.
In reality, though, it is a moot point. I fully believe that everyone has an appointment before the Divine Judge and his was that day, just over 40 years ago. I can't change that and in many, many ways, I don't want to. My life is what it is because it has been beautifully orchestrated by the Divine Maestro and I am thankful for that!
The memories have been intense this summer, but that is just what they are, memories. They are a part of who I am and they have helped to mold me, but they are not the substance of me. They don't define me, they don't hold me captive, but they are a part of me and I am thankful for that. My memories give me a perspective on life that most people don't have and I know that God uses that in a powerful way.
I will always love my dad, but after 40 years, I think I can finally say that while it was one of the toughest things I've ever gone through, God has used it for good.