On Christmas night, we went to my 86-year-old grandpa’s house and watched old home videos. When I say old… I mean old. My dad would’ve turned 61 this month and there were shots of him toddling around the house at age one in an adorable vest suit my grandma sewed for him. The oldest videos were originally reel-to-reel-film (think Christmas Vacation with Clark in the attic). Sometime in the ’90’s, someone had the brilliant idea to use a camcorder to film the video onscreen, so now we have access to these gems on VHS.
One of the VHS tapes was found at my dad’s. Christmas 1999. It was a lot of boring chatter while people opened their presents. But it sure was fun to see what we looked like 20 years ago. To hear our voices. To see how we interacted; how we dressed. My brother in his Reggie Miller jersey, my cousin in her velvet tie-dye. My auntie’s crimped hair. I was 19. I had my North Carolina Tar Heels snow coat on (while in the house. ha!). My youngest daughter commented on my eyebrows. In the tape, I was the exact same age as my oldest daughter is now.
After presents were opened, the video took us into my grandpa’s man cave where the real fun was happening. My grandpa is a rock’n roll musician. So every Christmas, my dad, Uncle Doug, Cousin Chris, and random people join my grandpa for some jammin. They play the guitar, and sing. Most years, it seems like the same few cords are played over and over and over again. My grandpa has such patience with these amateurs. My dad is always the center of attention, which was no different in this video. He was in the middle of the room, strumming his chords and singing with no inhibitions. He was so young. So buff and handsome. That year, he was wearing a fake earring. He thought he was so funny.
I was caught on video talking on the phone, most likely to my boyfriend. I decided it was time to leave, so I said bye to my dad and told him that I might come back. He kissed me on the cheek and continued jammin. It was so effortless.
Effortless. I had never used that word to describe the relationship I had with my dad. But that moment in the video spoke to me. While he played the few chords he knew on that Christmas in 1999, little did he know that in a month I would tell him that he would be a grandpa. I made him a young grandpa twice over. I pushed limits. But somehow our relationship remained effortless; From my earliest memories, to the day he died.
Why? Why are some relationships so easy, so natural, so effortless and some not? It is not a measure of love. I could list relationships overflowing with love in my life that are not effortless.
Maybe it’s because of who my dad was. He was go-with-the-flow, confident, loved life even when it sucked, found fun and created laughter. He didn’t try too hard, or expect too much. He gave grace and didn’t get offended. And he was one of the most content people I have ever known. If he asked for a Guacamole Bacon Burger with Onion Rings, and I showed up with a Crispy Chicken Sandwich and French Fries… he’d just eat it and be happy that I brought him food. He hated being late to church. I picked him up late almost every Sunday for the last couple of years. But he didn’t even get mad. If we made plans and I had to cancel, he’d be disappointed but it wouldn’t be a big deal. He never ever made me feel stupid. He made me feel capable. I can still hear his voice when I’d call him, “HELLO BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER!”. He called me kiddo, even though I’m almost 40.
I want to have effortless relationships. I asked my oldest daughter if she thought our relationship was effortless. She wouldn’t have thought of that term, but said that it fits. If I asked my youngest daughter… she’d most likely say heck no.
This is the first Christmas without my dad. It went better than I thought. There was still laughter at my grandma’s. There weren’t quite as many tears as I expected. But it was still tough. Every bright light of the season had an underlying grittiness, some lingering grey, a hint of heaviness.
As we prepare to ring in the New Year… the first year of my existence that my dad will not be in… I can’t help but want time to reverse… to go back to days that were simpler. When the kids were small and life was perfect if they had ice cream and a Disney movie. When my dad was here. But as the old saying goes, Time Marches On. So into 2020 we go. My tears will follow, but maybe not as many. My heart will still hurt, but maybe not as much. And as I heal and examine myself and my relationships, I will try to be like my dad and nurture effortless relationships.