How do I begin this? How do I write of a loss so great that even at this point into the dedication, I’m afraid I won’t ever make it through to the end?
How do I tell the world of who you were to me? Of who you were when you were here with me and all that you’ve done, taught and given me? How do I share the endless memories that are all I have left to hold onto until I see you again?
Where do I start? How do I start?
I could write this as though it were a letter, but no, I think I’d want that to be private and between you and I. I’d burn it after completion so that all of the frayed and fleeting embers might find their way to you. But I feel selfish writing this because I know you, I know it’d make you sad to hear of the vivid sorrow living within me now.
You didn’t like that sort of stuff; you didn’t always understand it when it came to me, and that was my fault. My inability to show (what I once believed was) weakness ultimately hid a lot of my struggles from you, but I think you knew of them all along. And you loved me in your own way just a little bit more because of that side of me – I recognize the emotion in your eyes as I go through photos I had taken of you. I do this late at night and wonder where you are now. Wonder if you can hear me. Because I like to talk to you.
I’ve always enjoyed talking to you (minus the teenage years where I gave you some cringey parental heartache, but that was on me…) and I hear your voice in my head as clear as though you were sitting beside me right this moment. Telling me to ‘get it together, Jack,’ but with a glint of that special something you had in your eyes for me. Well, for all your girls and only your girls.
I’ve been writing down memories and you-isms everyday since you’ve gone as a way to keep those thoughts safe and sound. These little recollections that (sometimes) gave us headaches or induced an eye-roll here and there have become the very things I turn to when I need the quiet sort of saving. They drag me out of the depths that my heart has sunk to because it helps me feel as if you’re more here than not-here. It pulls you closer to me in the only way I’m allowed to have anymore.
So, I’m going to share a bit of what I’ve written down, even though I know I’ll never be able to write enough, least of all in this first time doing so. It’ll never be everything. No words I speak write think or read will ever compensate – it’ll never compare to what it felt like having you here with me. Having you as my protector from day 1, my Godzilla and King Kong movie buddy, my coach, my cheerleader, my conscience, my judgement, my impenetrable safe-place, my constant, my steady, my backbone – the first man and only man who will ever love me unconditionally. My Dad.
So I ask the universe once more, how should I begin this?
I guess I could start with the ridiculously fun stuff – I don’t want this to be a sob-fest and I know, again, that you’d hate that. You’d change the subject and the movement of emotions would pass as quickly as they’d come. Not all the time, but usually that was your way.
Right – The Fun Stuff. Here’s where I get to call you out on how weird, goofy and absolutely wonderful you were. And I know just what I’m going to start with:
Your piece of cake can only be cut into a square shape.
Even with tears in my eyes I’m smiling at this. You’re the only human I’ve ever met (maybe the only one on Earth) that needed his bit of cake squared off. I repeat: A round cake just had to be squared. If that doesn’t sum you up in all of your quirkiness, I don’t know what else would.
Oh but there is more…
When you got mad, not full-on mad but mad-adjacent – and Lord knows the peaks of that temper you were blessed with – some of the words that erupted from your mouth were so unbelievably out there. The classic and frequently used, ‘Ya motha’s ass!’ was probably the collective favorite. You weren’t talking about my mother or even yours, you were just YELLING about someone else’s motha’s ass because something small and minute pissed you off. It was always the small and minute that got you the most; dropped an item or object twice and went to get it thrice and missed? Angry. Reached for a paper towel (don’t get me started on your love for these – gosh would you hate the consumer world right now!) and pulled too many at once? Annoyed. Did it again? Fury reigns down! And on and on. You were such a hothead.
Oh how those outbursts stressed me, Dad. How it stressed us all, but we carried on and within a minute or two you were right as rain. What a temperament you had. I know it’s weird to admit this but I’ll miss that. I’ll miss that fire of yours and try to keep control of my own when moments of anger and rage pull me into its unyielding grasp. I inherited that from you, of this there is no doubt in my mind.
I’ll miss your insane aversion to germs – if someone had a cold or even coughed more than a few times and you happened to hear it? Banished! Be gone, ye victim of plague! (The irony of this and the world right now has not gone unnoticed.)
I’ll miss your crippling fear of lightning – before cancer entered the picture nothing scared you more than lightning did. I never fully understood that fear (were you struck?! Did you see someone struck??) but I promise I won’t galavant in the thunderstorms that are sure to come and go. All the storms that will make me think of you.
I’ll miss our annual car inspection you-and-me dates. For the last six or seven years we met at Vince’s and walked the few blocks to the breakfast joint that up and closed on us three or so years back – how dare they! We’d get time to just sit and talk together. You’d wander off to chat with Gabe or the mechanics and other men for a while but I did so love those mornings and looked forward to them because it was just us-time. This March you weren’t able to go and now I know what it’ll be like going forward. I don’t like it anymore. I won’t look forward to it anymore. Maybe I won’t ever go back there again.
I’ll miss the IHOP breakfasts you loved doing with me, Mom, Bella and Andrew when you and Mom stayed over my house. Those weekends were the absolute best and I’ve missed them more than I can put into words for a year. Now I’ll miss them always.
I’ll miss the Wawa coffee runs. I’ll miss the breakfasts you loved making or buying for your family. The dinners you cooked that were out of this world. The game nights we held every six weeks that I’ll be forever grateful for and all the laughs that were so hard we couldn’t breathe sometimes. And your in-game rap, I’ll miss that a whole whole lot.
I’ll miss loving The Beatles with you; you’ll never know the gratitude I have for you for opening my world to them. My gratitude for you, too.
I’ll miss cheering the Eagles on with you (it took me a while to become a football fan but once I did, you were my go-to that was always just a text or call away). I’ll wear my fan-gear proudly and thank our lucky stars often that you were here to see them win in 2018. LII Champs!
I’ll remember sunrise walks on the beach from our Myrtle Beach vacation. You didn’t want me – a grown woman – walking alone at 5 am and all I wanted to do was greet the sun and hunt for shark teeth in the surf. So you came with me and we did it together. Those fossilized teeth have been sitting on my desk for almost two years now. I hold them and can smell that day as if it were happening as I type these words. I wish it was then and not now, to be honest. Anyway, I took photographs of us that morning, too, because I knew the moment was significant but I didn’t know why then. I know now.
I know all about the truth of significance since April 3rd.
I’m in my mid-thirties and a lot of things I’ve mentioned are fairly recent because those are what stand at the forefront. The human brain is fallible when it comes to the passage of time and I am no exception to its inevitable fade.
But be that as it may, I remember being your little girl and the adventures we had. I remember the things you’ve handmade for me, the mountains of couch cushions you dared me to dive head-first into (I’m sorry, Mom!) over and over again. And I damn-well did it every time. I remember you throwing me in the pool so high into the air that my stomach left my body and returned only when I splashed down. We did that over and over again, too. I remember the legendary whirlpool you made one perfect summer night; I spun around and around under a blanket of stars and a moon so bright it felt as though it had shone just for us.
So much is coming back to me and I know this is the start of many movements I write for you. To you.
And among them is Sauer Grapes. I’ll write that for you, Dad. I’ll write my fucking heart out to see that it gets into the world, where you wanted it. I already regret so much that I didn’t take the time to sit and pen that with you while you were on this side of the light.
I regret that we didn’t take our cross-country trip together – timing was just never on our side. I’m taking that fucking trip the moment the world isn’t on fire with a virus and you’re coming with me for every mile I go.
I’m sad that you were never able to go hunting again over the year you fought your illness. I know how much you wanted to – how much you looked forward to it. That particular passion was not one we shared but I always adored the enthusiasm you held for it and oh, how I’ve missed hearing about those adventures Up The Mountains. Will always miss hearing them.
The next time we go back as a family will be for you, but we won’t be hunting, I’m sorry to say. I still won’t kill Bambi, Dad.
Speaking of family, I will forever miss the place you held for Mom. You and her were in love for fifty years and married for almost 47 and the way you saw her was proof that soulmates and true love isn’t just the stuff of fairytales and movies. It’s real and we all knew that. Nothing will ever be the same as we head into a future without you, but the impossibility of space and time is no match for what you and Mom have. Your love has transcended to that next place and that’s a comfort of an immeasurable kind I can’t quite articulate yet. I will try to, one day.
I suppose this ultimately did end up being a letter to you, Dad, but one that I will share regardless. Because I want people to know a scratch of who you were and the impact you’ve had on my life. I know the heart you had was solid gold and the clothes you owned were anyone’s if they ever had need of them. I know some – and am learning more everyday – of the wonderful, heartfelt, moving things you’ve done and the man you’ve been for the people you loved. But for all of that and more, you were my dad and I was always proud of that. I was so fortunate and blessed and I knew it all along.
So I will live alongside the hurt that comes paired with the magnitude of this loss. I will bear the weight of it and move through the days as needed and do what I can to help the people you loved the most laugh and cry and heal. I’ll help them feel. You know how big I am on feeling feelings.
On every birthday I will think of you and know that you’re still cutting square pieces of cake for yourself (or yelling at Nana to do it for you). I’ll know that every time I listen to No Reply you’ll be singing the high harmony notes and killing it just like McCartney does. I promise I’ll watch every Eagles game and cheer, and curse, just a little louder to add in your umph – because their plays are fuckin’ stupid sometimes and it needs to be said. I get it, I definitely get it.
And every time I clasp your #1Dad necklace to my heart, I’ll feel your love and remember you as you were, thanking God for giving me all the time He did with you.
Thank you for being mine, Dad. I love you.
Henry Arthur Sauer
1/6/1954 – 4/3/2020
You made that dash count.