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Forty-four years (#1232)

Topics/tags: Autobiographical

Today is May 11th. For many years of my life, whenever the 11th of May rolled around, I felt sad and out of sorts, whether or not I realized that it was May 11th. Why? Because my father, Bill Rebelsky, passed away on May 11th, 1979. Yup, that’s forty-four years ago–—a long time, about 3/4 of my life.

Losing my father was difficult. It’s always hard to lose your father. But Dad was somewhat larger than life, even if I didn’t realize it then. That made it harder. He meant a lot to a lot of people. He was a strong voice for inclusion and equity long before it was natural to be such a voice. I don’t know all that he did. Still, I heard from his friends that, for example, when Polaroid was discussing insurance, he advocated for change: Women hadn’t previously had the same coverage as men, and he argued that a woman might be put in the place of supporting her family just as much as a man would. Okay, I’m pretty sure he argued it better than I just did.

Of course, there’s more. As I wrote in some recent musing, he convinced the company not to lay people off during an economic downturn, identifying other ways to put them to work (or at least identifying enough possibilities that the downturn passed). And there’s the issue that he was so principled that he started turning down wages once he felt like he earned enough.

He certainly wasn’t perfect. For example, he never discussed that last decision with Mom. But he did a lot.

He was also a great father. I’ll admit that most of my memories have to do with summers: Riding the surf in an inflatable boat he’d found, one that we rode to shore and he dragged back into the surf; learning to body surf; setting off M-80s on the beach; walking around the lake, searching for crabs. Stuff like that. I also remember some of his shaggy dog stories, stories that I’ve since shared with my offspring [1]. And I learned to play cards from my father and his friends.

I wish he’d been able to meet Michelle, to play with his grandkids, to teach me to drive, to have more time with Mom, to live & exist. But it wasn’t to be.

There was so much more I wanted to learn from him. For example, I still need to get better at being able to just be with someone else, sharing existence without talking. He did a lot of woodwork. I never got to do that with him. I’m sure the fantastic wall unit he built ended up in a dumpster after Mom sold the house.

For the first decade or more, I’d say a week didn’t go by without me feeling a deep sadness at his loss. The deep sadness came up less frequently in the following years. Dealing with the loss is certainly easier now. But May 11th makes me sad. Writing about him still makes me cry. But I get by. And I get by without Mom, although I miss her deeply, too.

Still, it gets easier each year. Perhaps even each month. I still love them. But I also have others I love deeply. And I do my best to remember my good fortune at being raised by such amazing people.

I cried while writing this. I even sobbed. Memories are hard. Loss is hard. I guess it hasn’t become as easy as I thought. It gets easier, but it never gets easy.

I love you, Dad!

[1] The Pierre moose story and the toothache story are two of them. Perhaps the Polish comedian story, too. I’m not sure any of them are appropriate anymore [2].

[2] Yes, offspring, I will tell you the stories again if you’ve forgotten them.

Version 1.0 of 2023-05-11.