Written December 29th 2017:
Christmas 2016 was the last time I was home before my dad died. I drove over 20 hours from Boston, half of it on a spare tire after I blew one out in Canada, the final stretch through a famous Upper-Michigan snowstorm from the Mackinac Bridge all the way home. After I got in and had been greeted by my mom, brother and herd of anxious Saint Bernard’s, I went downstairs to find my dad vacuuming the basement to prepare for my two week visit.
To be honest, it had been a tough year on us with my dad working through his addiction to alcohol, and I hadn’t been home since the summer. I surprised him in the basement and we shared a moment where he said “my girl is home” and held me so tight, I specifically remember thinking to myself how I could feel how strong his hands, weathered by years of manual labor, felt on my back, and how all of the tension that we had felt while there had been distance between us melted away as we shared a moment of pure love. We pulled away and awkwardly wiped tears away from our eyes. I don’t know why I burned that hug into my memory, but I thank myself for it every single day. Right after, we came upstairs to take this “sissy’s home” photo in front of the fireplace:
The day I was set to start driving back to Boston, my dad had planned his commute to his second-home in Lansing, meaning we’d spend six hours traveling in the same direction. We tag teamed passing each other and calling each other the entire commute. We stopped for gas before crossing the Mackinac bridge and he secretly bought hot dogs and buns so we could be goofy and use the new “hot dog cooker” he had received from his sister for Christmas.
We had a fun night alone in his Lansing home making hot dogs and watching trashy TV, and early the next morning, a year ago today, he sent me off to finish my drive to Boston.
A year ago was the last time I saw my dad. I don’t remember that goodbye, or that hug, although I’m sure it was good too. I didn’t know I’d have a reason to commit it to memory.
When you head into the new year, you’ll experience so much media pressure to brand yourself with a superficial resolution you may only stick to for a few weeks. What if, instead, you committed yourself to hug the people you love a little tighter, taking an extra breath to remember the way their arms feel around you? If I could go back to this day a year ago, that’s all I’d want to do.