…has never been a more monumental understatement.
The last week has been the most powerful of my life. It contained my lowest low and my highest high both within two days of each other.
My father, James Winters died on September fourth, 2009. He died from a complication from fifty plus years of smoking. The details of his death are not as relevant for me at this time, so much as the more extensive sense of utter loss. I miss him terribly and have spent some time reflecting on what it means to take relationships for granted, be they family, friend or any other loved one. I realize I don’t put as much effort as I’d like to into sustaining strong relationships with those I care about and those who are important to me. I hope his death can canonize the importance of those who are alive now. I will miss his words, his laugh and his smile. Every day a different instance comes up where I’d love to have his opinion or show something off to him or get his advice or simply hear his voice. I can’t anymore and I know that. I also know that while there is extensive support and positive sentiment about loss and the memory of someone still existing in your heart, the fact of the matter is simply that I miss him. Maybe my spiritual side is lacking, and I know I have real issues with faith, but ultimately I’m selfishly interested in what happens in this life, in this world, in this plane of reality. This is where I feel I’ve been neglectful in my relationships. This life is what matters personally to me. Not the afterlife, not the spiritual “after”, but the real and now. I will always remember his words and his guidance and his sense of humor and I know that time will help heal some of my immediate sadness. My concern about the material, the here and now is based on my immediate emotions, which have been keyed up pretty high recently. I know my memory of him will help sustain me in the long run, and I know he is proud, but for now, I know I miss him. I also know that I don’t show grief very well, and some may think I’m burying emotions. This is hardly the case, but the circumstance surrounding my father’s death push me to live for the right now, and be happy and positive for the right now. After all, this is what he wanted, so much that he kept his sickness from me until it was too late. I didn’t get to say goodbye to my father, and I realize that’s a cliché that doesn’t make a lot of sense. I can’t think of a moment where it would be okay to lose someone and be comforted by their passing. I know he was in pain and that he is in “a better place” in that he isn’t living a life of misery and illness, but death sucks. He’s gone and the rest of us are still here. I realize that the important thing is that life is here and now, and that there’s never a good time to say goodbye. One phrase that comes up in my mental dialogue over and over is simply that:
“It would have been nice.”
It would have been nice for him to have been alive at least a few more days. A few more days, a few more years, again, there’s never a good time to say goodbye, but in a few more days, he could have seen the most wonderful event in my life that was the birth of my son.
My son, Jackson Riley Winters, was born on September sixth, 2009. He came into the world a bit late, and his mom had to go through quite an ordeal to allow him to come into the world. Like his parents, he wanted to stay in bed and get up late, and like his dad, he had to throw expectations out the window. Ginger was originally due August 30th, but ended up going late. While scheduled for an induction September sixth, she wound up going into labor on the evening of the fifth. Jackson, ultimately his father’s son, just had to be contrary. Ginger’s labor was long and painful and seventeen hours later, ended up having to have a cesarean birth anyway. She was in no danger, but Jackson was making it impossible to bring himself into the world a normal way. Besides being turned the wrong way and stuck, he also was a whopping 8 lbs. 11 0z. at birth, making a “regular” delivery impossible. Regular is a relative term, as the cesarean was the only safe and healthy way for mom and baby.
He is an absolute joy. I was nervous and cynical about the technicolor bonds that exist between newborn and new parent, worrying I might not have them, and feeling like a stranger to this tiny person who had just come into my world. His first cry in the world shattered that thought and after seeing him for the first time, the rest of my fears were blown away. I won’t get all gushy, but dammit if it wasn’t the most amazing feeling and bond in the world, and this coming from a confirmed cynic. I almost hate myself for how sappy I get with this kid, this ‘insert metaphor here’ feeling for this beautiful spawn of my loins. He’s healthy, big, strong and beautiful. He has all his senses, and we have an instant bond. This kind of crap was not what I was expecting. Oh sure, I was hoping he would turn out okay and not have too many weird creepy alien newborn features, but I wanted to keep my expectations realistic. He ended up being the best thing I could have hoped for. None of the weirdness I was expecting was left, even his little umbilical cord lost any grotesqueness, and even now that blows me away.
I love my son. I love him already. As I type this tonight, I watch him in his bouncer, snuggled up and asleep. I know it won’t last, and he’ll have to be fed soon, but while I have a few moments to reflect on the past week, I realize I have the opportunity to remember my father in a new way. His words, his lessons, his humor and his kindness will be passed on to my son. It won’t quite be the same, and I would give anything to have Jackson be able to see his Grandpa’s face, and to see the look on my Dad’s face. I would want to show off, I would want to say: “look what I’ve done”, and I would want to see them connect. It isn’t a question of whether or not I want his praise, though I know he loved me. It just…would have been nice to have them connect. Just a few days, and he could have heard his voice. Just a few days and he could have seen his face. I miss my dad, and I wish my son could have met the man. I know there’s some poetic cyclical closure to be had, and maybe someday I’ll be able to appreciated the profoundness of it all. But for now, that’s bullshit. It would have been nice to see the connection, to ask my father for advice on ways to raise my kid, to see the joy in his eyes as he made his grandson laugh. It would have been nice to watch him come up the walk and see our new place, and the home we have built with a complete family living inside in my life. That can’t happen now.
I’m overjoyed to have my son in my life, and I think it’s the best way I’ve been able to deal cope handle the sense of loss, or at least compartmentalize it for now. I realize this post is contrary and conflicting. I’m realizing that I’m not sure how I’ll ever reconcile the two events in any clear way. I’m pretty sure it won’t be in a neat little made-for-TV bow where “one life goes out as one comes in”. I just don’t know right now, and I think that’s okay. Thanks to everyone for their warm wishes. Thanks to everyone for their support. I’m as okay as I think I can be. There’s much to think about, and perhaps there’s nothing to think about. For now, I will cherish the new life of my son while keeping my dad in my mind and heart for guidance, support and laughter.
I miss you Dad, and I love you, Jackson. It would have been nice to have you meet one another.
James Benton Winters
Jackson Riley Winters