Dear Dad,

I miss you. I miss the opportunity to call you today, the way I used to with such ease. Dial a number, wait for you to answer — I miss the way you had no reason to pretend you weren’t so excited that I was calling. The way you said how are you doing? The way you called me son. I miss being able to fly home, if even for a weekend, and know that you would be there waiting for me, wanting to cook for me, wanting to make the spare bedroom perfect for me, even when it was hard for you — even when you could barely walk anymore or could no longer speak. I miss knowing how much you wanted me there, every day, even when we fought. I miss fighting with you. I miss thinking for a time that I resented you, for leaving us, for walking away. And I miss forgiving you, for realizing that life would never allow for you to be my enemy. You were my father. You were my hero.

You died on a Sunday. I remember Sundays. We used to get ready for church together. You would help round us up, me and the guys, and make sure we brushed our teeth and combed our hair correctly — you’d check our shirts and shoes, making sure we didn’t miss a button or tie our shoes wrong. You’d help mom zip up her dress, the whole room smelling of her perfume and your aftershave, and you’d tell her she looked beautiful. You would drive us to church. You never drove fast. Mom said you used to before we were born, but not anymore. We’d sit, bored and restless during psalm and chorus, and you would make sure we didn’t misbehave. You’d give us the look if we acted up. When church was over we’d go to lunch. It was usually a mess of grease-laden mexican food, too good to put into words, or perhaps a trip to the mall for food court and shopping. Then we’d go home, full and eager for more, and we would sit next to you dad, for the rest of the day, not quite realizing how wonderful that finite moment actually was.

When you got sick all those years ago, I faced a massive internal battle. It was the time when I was venturing out on my own. I was finally getting out of that town, breaking free and starting the adventure that would be my own life. Then they said it was cancer. You had a very hard fight ahead of you and many obstacles to overcome. And I just wanted to tell you now, though yes it may be too late, that I’m so very sorry that I didn’t come back. While you went through the chemotherapy and the surgeries, I’m so very sorry that I wasn’t there every moment you were suffering. I was only a plane ticket away, and we were anything but estranged, but maybe there should have been more plane tickets. Maybe I should have waited to go to school, and to be the little boy in the big city. I know you would say that you would never have had it that way — that you would want for me to live my life. But I would give the whole thing away just to have you back here, now, for just one more day.

You would be so very, intensely proud of your sons. Adrian and Barbara are very happy in Georgia. Adrian is doing excellent in his career, and he looks good, pop. He looks so happy. And Barbara of course is glowing all the time. And Callie — your granddaughter. She’s beautiful, dad. She’s the light of all of our lives right now. You, in your whole life, never could have imagined that your first grandchild would have been so perfect. Before any other selfish want of mine, I would wish only that you could have met her, and held her in your arms just once.

She has your smile.

Adam is working and living in Austin. He’s come so far, after his amazing journey in South Korea. His demeanor reminds me the most of you. That kid has so much thoughtfullness and kindness in his heart. He is all about others, just like you were. I don’t know if he knows, though I certainly do, just how much you admired him when he lived on the other side of the world for two years. I hope he realizes how much he made you swell with pride.

And Anthony — the firecracker with your looks and mom’s fiery spirit. He’s getting ready to get his Ph.D. In that regard alone, I can’t imagine how proud he made you. I knew what you and he shared. I knew what you disputed over and what sort of things the two of you said, and didn’t say. But he’s so smart dad, and so passionate. And I know what you would say to him today if you were able to. You would say quite simply: You are more than I ever could have imagined you’d be.

Will & Christine are also doing well. Christine is happily married and has never looked more beautiful. And Will & Lauren are expecting their first baby. Lauren looks amazing and Will — he’s so proud dad. And he misses you so very much. You taught him a lot about what it means to be a man, and what it will mean to be a father.

I can’t say that I don’t think every day about the fact that you won’t be able to see me get married, dad. Joe and I are going to miss you that day. Perhaps you would have been well enough to walk. Perhaps you’d be a little too weak and would have needed the wheelchair. Either way I would have loved for you, however non-traditional it may be, to have walked me down the aisle and given me away to him. Everyone will tell me that you will be there in spirit. And that’s just not something I can quite wrap my head around. But I think it’s important to remember that you will be there in my head — in my memory and in knowing what you would say to me. You see, before Christine’s wedding, when it was just you and I in the house, getting dressed and grooming for the ceremony, you asked me to trim your eyebrows. You were still too independent to let me help you shower or use the bathroom, or even to comb your hair — but you wanted to look perfect and asked for my help. So I did. I cut the strays from atop your brow. And when I was done you stood up and asked me, “How do I look?”

“You look perfect,” I said. Because you did. You looked perfect.

That’s what you would say to me. On my wedding day. You look perfect.

There’s no real words to say how much I love you, pops. It was and continues to be a privelage calling you my dad. I hope you know how much I miss you. Happy Father’s Day. I’ll see you one day.

- Alex