When You Were My Age

My Dad and MeThis is what I believed:

You were on a secret mission for the government. You’d been selected because of your special military skills. You were undercover, top secret, incognito. Every once in a while, I’d see a man who looked a little bit like you. Was it you, so well-disguised? I knew you were watching us.

This is what I believed:

Don’t give up. Don’t be a quitter. Never quit. “Damn, I’m good.”

Those were your mantras. Your mottos on the wall. Your key chains. I couldn’t give up, not on myself, not on you.

As I forced myself to finish that last lap around the track, I knew you were watching me, proud of me: your daughter who doesn’t give up. Your daughter who is so like you. Same fuzzy hair. Same blue eyes. Same sense of humor–or so my mother once told me. Same self-righteousness and determination.

This is what I remember:

When I was in third grade, or was it fourth?, you brought our dog, Lucky, to recess at school and let us romp with him. Later-was it just the next summer? You had Lucky put to sleep because he was getting in too many fights with other dogs. It was a hard decision, but you always did the right thing, even if it was hard.

You taught me how to pull worms from the soil for fishing. You taught me how to cast the fly, hold the rod–I don’t remember the right words now. It was so long ago. You went ahead of us on the path through the woods near the river to kill the snakes. You showed us their bodies. In the river, you taught me to swim. There was a rock with a t-shaped tunnel through it. The teenagers swam through the tunnel. You encouraged me to do it, too–you were there on the other side to pull me through. Once, at the river, you lost your wedding band.

You stayed up, night after night, gluing together that Victorian doll house kit, sewing bedding for the furniture: a tiny canopy, pillows. You put it all together for me, just a year or so before I was too old to enjoy it, just like the long-awaited canopy frame you’d made for my own bed.

Camping… the deer walked right past our site.

Christmas… wool socks left behind in the snow by Santa.

You read us ‘Treasure Island’ and made up stories about Sasquatch. You sang ‘Old Dog Blue’ and ‘Mr. Bojangles’ and songs of your own while playing guitar. They always made me cry.

This is what I remember:

We were in the living room. It was the weekend before father’s day, and we had gone shopping on the base for your presents. You were away at Fort B.

The police car pulled up. It parked on the street, not in our driveway.

A police officer and a military officer got out–was he a Marine? Or from the National Guard?

Mom told us all to go to our sisters’ room. For once, we all obeyed.

Minutes later, she came in, sat down. I don’t remember her exact words. She told us you were dead. Shot. Machine gun. Practice drill. You were never coming back.

My brother ran out of the room. I can’t remember what happened next.

We couldn’t hold the funeral service at the church, because you hadn’t been baptized. That had never prevented you from taking Communion.

At the reception later, the nuns told me you were in a better place. I couldn’t believe their nerve.

This is what I believed, for a while:

You were in heaven, watching me. Reading my mind. Judging me. Hoping for me. Wanting me to be the best I could.

I knew it wasn’t true, but somewhere, somehow, I wanted you to still exist. To still be with me. On my first wedding day–in the midst of an August heat wave–it rained. They said you were crying from  Heaven. On my second wedding day, the morning’s torrential downpour cleared to a perfect, sunny, smiling afternoon. I know it was just weather.

When You Were My Age

I am the same exact age now–minus a few weeks– that you were when you died: 39. On this day, 29 years ago, you were gone.

How could you have been so young? You seemed so real to me, so complete. You were everything.

You have missed so much of our lives. My daughter cries for the grandfather she never knew.

At 39, I am still a child. Unformed. Trying.

I was selected for VOTY/PhOTY 2015

  One thought on “When You Were My Age

  1. June 18, 2014 at 12:46 AM

    Reblogged this on tuluschristian14.

  2. June 12, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    Thanks Kylie !!

    Julien

    http://www.locationdebenne67.fr.nf/

  3. June 4, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    This is such a touching post. I lost my dad, unexpectedly, two years ago. He was 49. I can’t imagine what it will be like to live to be older than he ever got to be. It’s hard to imagine ever passing your parent in age. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • June 4, 2014 at 7:34 PM

      I’m sorry to hear that! It is a strange feeling. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

  4. May 30, 2014 at 12:49 AM

    Reblogged this on The Mental Jungle.

  5. May 27, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    Reblogged this on gehirnandy.

  6. May 22, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    I too lost my father at the young age of 39. Something about the toughness that is formed in the resolve of fatherless daughters! That was beautiful.

  7. May 21, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    Such a lovely post. The part about the nuns telling you he was in a better place really resonated with me. I lost my brother when I was 8 and I could hardly stand when people said that to me. You really captured what are usually indescribable emotions. Thank you for sharing!

    • May 21, 2014 at 5:03 PM

      It’s a hard thing to hear, isn’t it??

    • May 21, 2014 at 5:03 PM

      So, so sorry about your brother.

      • May 21, 2014 at 8:25 PM

        It is indeed. Said out of love, but hard to understand how difficult it is to hear unless you’re on the receiving end of it. Thank you. Sorry about your father as well. Thank god for good old-fashioned writing as our outlet :)

        • May 22, 2014 at 10:30 AM

          Absolutely. Writing has been such an amazing outlet and healing method for me. Sounds like it is for you, too.

  8. May 21, 2014 at 3:50 AM

    Reblogged this on Milieu de la Moda.

  9. May 17, 2014 at 9:05 AM

    Reblogged this on Earth According to Emily.

  10. May 16, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    I’m sorry for your loss.
    I have recently lost my older sister because of a drunk driver.
    You wrote so beautifully.

    • May 16, 2014 at 7:42 PM

      That is terrible. I’m so sorry to hear that. Hugs to you and yours.

  11. Radio Waves of the Damned
    May 15, 2014 at 5:49 PM

    This is beyond beautiful.

  12. May 15, 2014 at 2:40 PM
  13. May 15, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    Reblogged this on anadeconsuelo.

  14. May 15, 2014 at 6:39 AM

    Powerful piece, very well presented and concise. I’m more long-winded but trying. Your posts are incredible. Thank you for sharing your wonderful Dad with us…I’m sure he is proud of you.

    • May 15, 2014 at 1:02 PM

      Thank you. I have a background in technical/policy writing and media work so I tend to be concise. Thank you so much for reading and for your kind comment.

  15. May 15, 2014 at 5:07 AM

    I am so sorry for your loss. This post is beautiful. You have a talent for painting pictures with words. Lovely.

  16. May 14, 2014 at 8:46 PM

    Reblogged this on zaharablu's Blog and commented:
    Wow!

  17. May 14, 2014 at 7:58 PM

    Reblogged this on Author Sean T. Smith.

  18. May 14, 2014 at 7:58 PM

    Achingly beautiful. This is a wonderful celebration of your father. Tears on my cheeks.

    • May 14, 2014 at 8:06 PM

      Thank you. You know, I haven’t been able to read it since hitting publish. Strange, isn’t it?

      • May 15, 2014 at 9:46 AM

        I understand. Your post is one of the best tributes I’ve ever read. The love and honesty shine through.

  19. May 14, 2014 at 9:38 AM

    Reblogged this on throughenueyes.

  20. May 14, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    Hi, Kylie. Your post touched me on two levels. First, I lost my father and as an expression of daughter living without her father grief this couldn’t be more accurate. As a writer, you’ve given me a great lesson in blogging like a badass. Hope to blog like you when I grow up–I’m 35 but my blog is only a few weeks old.

    • May 14, 2014 at 2:58 PM

      Thanks! This made me chuckle. I’d love to use that as a quote: ‘blogging like a badass’!! Damn right! I’ll give you a visit :)

  21. May 14, 2014 at 6:44 AM

    This post is beautyful, great story… It was like I saw everything from the outside while I was reading. Keep the great work going.

  22. May 14, 2014 at 6:35 AM

    Unformed and trying, there are no more honest or beautiful words to define a life well-lived. This sharing is luminous.

    • May 14, 2014 at 5:08 PM

      What a lovely comment. Many thanks.

  23. May 14, 2014 at 6:09 AM

    Thank you for introducing me to your Dad and thank you for allowing me to follow :-)

  24. May 14, 2014 at 5:26 AM

    That was beautiful. The longing is always there, just beneath the surface.

    • May 14, 2014 at 5:08 PM

      Yes. Well said.

  25. May 14, 2014 at 4:24 AM

    I’m sorry for your loss. I hope your memories will stay vivid of your father. He sounds like he was a wonderful dad.

  26. May 14, 2014 at 3:54 AM

    Wow

  27. May 14, 2014 at 3:38 AM

    Kyllie, this is so beautiful…very emotional. Yes he was so young… parents are so precious, aren’t they?

    • May 14, 2014 at 5:08 PM

      It’s humbling and a little bit bizarre to realize my children think the same thing about me now.

  28. May 14, 2014 at 3:36 AM

    Reblogged this on parathipetti.

  29. sureshmano
    May 14, 2014 at 3:25 AM

    You made me remember my dad.. nicely written…i am pleased to be here..

    • May 14, 2014 at 5:09 PM

      Thank you and welcome.

  30. May 14, 2014 at 3:22 AM

    Reblogged this on authoraamir and commented:
    So #beautiful.

  31. May 14, 2014 at 3:21 AM

    This is so #beautiful Kylie. TY so much for sharing is #heartfelt remembrance. Wish you all the very best in life. : ) Best wishes, always.

    • May 14, 2014 at 5:09 PM

      Thank you. Best wishes to you as well.

      • May 15, 2014 at 5:42 AM

        Most welcome friend! TY kindly. 😊👍

  32. May 14, 2014 at 2:51 AM

    Such a moving post. Sorry to hear you lost your dad so young. You have some wonderful memories of times together.

    • May 14, 2014 at 5:10 PM

      Yes I’m very fortunate to have so many strong memories. Thank you.

  33. May 14, 2014 at 2:02 AM

    Reblogged this on ikoleva13 and commented: :)

  34. May 14, 2014 at 2:02 AM

    :)

  35. May 14, 2014 at 12:02 AM

    Great post! This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing!

  36. May 13, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    Your post gave me chills down the spine. I could see the worms and feel the water and the darkness of that T shaped tunnel. I never expected what was coming. I felt as though I were standing there as the car drew up.
    You write so visually. It was like watching a movie.
    Definitely following your blog now! Thank you Freshly Pressed. All the best to you.

  37. May 13, 2014 at 10:34 PM

    You are. Incredible….this one so touching…every details speaks of the love and longing that you have for your father….heart warming read. I am following you now.

  38. May 13, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    You are. Incredible….this one so touching…every details speaks of the love and longing that you have for your father….heart warming read.

    • May 14, 2014 at 5:11 PM

      Thank you so much.

  39. May 13, 2014 at 9:53 PM

    INSPIRING, AMAZING AND WORTH READING

    • May 14, 2014 at 5:12 PM

      Awwww. Thank you so much.

  40. May 13, 2014 at 8:52 PM

    Thank you for sharing that! Your dad was an incredible man and I am sure he is proud of you for all you’ve accomplished.

    • May 14, 2014 at 5:14 PM

      Thank you. It’s good to imagine I have a guardian angel.

  41. May 13, 2014 at 7:15 PM

    Reblogged this on emmadol's Blog.

  42. May 13, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    Beautiful prose

  43. May 13, 2014 at 3:58 PM

    This is beautiful. You use details so well and make your dad seem present.

  44. May 13, 2014 at 3:17 PM

    I am always amazed that there are so many tragedies out there. Sounds like a good man and the fact that you remember him is an honor to all.

    • May 13, 2014 at 3:23 PM

      Thank you very much. I’ve come to think *not* experiencing tragedy is the exception.

  45. March 8, 2014 at 6:24 PM

    Hello darling. My first visit here. This was so beautiful and I think anyone can relate to what it is to love someone so much who just isn’t here anymore. But he left his mark on you and nothing can change that. xo S

    • March 8, 2014 at 8:24 PM

      Thank you Shannon. I carry him with me every day. I appreciate your comment.

  46. January 17, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    OK, you sent me here because you just wanted to make me cry huh? This made me think how my version of this story would go. You really know how to paint a picture. Is was like snap shots of a film.

    • January 18, 2014 at 8:56 AM

      Yep. That’s my goal: to make people laugh, think, or cry.

      Thanks you so much for your feedback. ‘Snapshots of a film’!!!

  47. July 19, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    Wow! This is so gorgeous, it gave me goosebumps!! Thank you so much for sharing this with me. Your dad was a beautiful person and this is such a sweet tribute to him. Very well done.
    On my blog I posted “Always On My Mind” about my mother’s death, if you are interested. Thank you for your nice words about “The Rewards of Being Yourself.” Take care.

    • July 19, 2013 at 3:39 PM

      Thanks–I’ll read it.
      I don’t think I told you how much I like your button-thread-eyes :)
      Thanks for reading. I do appreciate it.

  48. June 28, 2013 at 1:57 AM

    Its strange how dads always do and never say, right? Mine has always been putting his tears aside when it came to things about me, except that Mom let the cat out of the bag. That he had been crying for three mornings in a row, just before my wedding. Dads are difficult to understand, sometimes difficult to reason with, but at the end of the day, you always know they love you a lot. Glad you posted this. #Peace&happiness

  49. June 26, 2013 at 9:59 PM

    A wonderful straight from the heart tribute, quite emotional reading! And I love your style of writing, flows very elegant!

    I notice you have the Pinterest button showing – would you mind if I pinned this to my Pinterest board for Interesting Blog Posts? I’m always looking for something good to put on there!
    Suzy :)

    • June 26, 2013 at 10:13 PM

      I would be honored! Thank you very much.

  50. June 21, 2013 at 1:43 AM

    Utterly heartbreaking but so beautiful. A wonderful tribute to your father.

    • June 21, 2013 at 2:37 PM

      Thank you for reading and commenting. Your jokes always make me smile.

  51. Kindle
    June 20, 2013 at 11:43 PM

    Thanks for asking me to read this, Kylie. I have known about this part of your life, the tragedy, for 20 years, and I have ached for you so often. But this piece is only partly about the tragedy. Your memories of him as a father, of your own life as a father’s daughter, are so pure and touching and bittersweet. There is this sense that your story should feel like it has come full circle now that you are the age he was when he died. But the circle isn’t closed. You are still making your rotation…and your father will always be a part of that journey.

  52. Karen
    June 20, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    Beautiful Kylie. Really a stunning piece of writing in honor of someone who can never be replaced. I don’t suppose you’ll ever really find true peace with your loss, but he would certainly be so proud of you.

  53. Le Clown
    June 19, 2013 at 9:33 AM

    Kylie,
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming to get me, and bring me here. You wrote from the heart, and I am typing this with tears. Thank you.
    Le Clown

    • June 19, 2013 at 9:35 AM

      Thank you, and you are welcome. I had a feeling you would understand this.

  54. June 17, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    Well said Kylie. I was quite touched with I knew you were watching me. Very powerful indeed. I hope it helped to share it.

    • June 17, 2013 at 1:20 PM

      Thank you, Balvah. It did.

  55. June 16, 2013 at 8:33 PM

    Rohan bought me here and I’m glad he did. Lovely words

    • June 16, 2013 at 8:55 PM

      Thank you so much, Daile. I appreciate your visit.

  56. June 15, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    *hugs* thank you for sharing this.. :)

    • June 15, 2013 at 10:44 AM

      Thank you :)

  57. June 14, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Beautiful. I’m tearing up right now. Thank you for sharing such a personal story with us. It was very well written, honest and from the heart.

    • June 14, 2013 at 2:25 PM

      Thank you, Tiffany.

  58. June 14, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    There must be so many many ways to tell this story and to write about your Dad. Who sounds like he was a wonderful father. But I love the way you chose to do it. Telling it simply. The plain truth of it. I think you really gave it justice.

    • June 14, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      Thank you Linda. You’re right… so many approaches and so many pieces. So many entry points, context, little stories… maybe there will be more to come. Thank you for your kind words.

  59. June 14, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    Kylie – that was so beautiful and sad – thank you for showings us that beauty.

    • June 14, 2013 at 10:02 AM

      Thanks, Denise. There is so much more to say and remember about him. I was lucky to have such a wonderful, fun, smart, loving dad. Of course, he had his limitations, like we all do, and as I get older I recognize that I have a lot of the same ones. Perfectionism, judging others, impatience, a temper. But I’m glad I share all that with him too, along with our crazy hair, creativity, and breadth of interests.

      • June 14, 2013 at 10:08 AM

        Remember the good stuff – realize he’s human and accept the limitations but never let them taint the good stuff!

        • June 14, 2013 at 10:09 AM

          He has hero status, and always will.

        • June 14, 2013 at 10:11 AM

          I mean–the man had a purple heart from Vietnam–he was tough and courageous, but also so loving. Something I didn’t include was this story:
          I had done something egregious. He was going to spank me, but he smacked his own hand instead. He told me how what I had done hurt him more. I never forgot that lesson.

  60. June 14, 2013 at 3:52 AM

    So touching and so terribly painful. Losing a parent at such a young age must shape so much of your life. So sorry.

  61. June 14, 2013 at 3:51 AM

    Beautiful post Kylie! This is written with such love and sensitivity :) He sounded like a great guy!

    Thank you for sharing!

    Rohan.

  62. June 12, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    Wonderful post. Both heart wrenching and heartwarming.

  63. June 12, 2013 at 8:31 AM

    This is beautifully written and heartbreaking. I read this post on the Facebook group “I Fucking Love Science” and I thought you might like it (especially considering your reaction to stupid nuns).

    “You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

    And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

    And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

    And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.” ~I Fucking Love Science; May 17th, 2012

    It gets a little preachy in that last paragraph (yeah, I’m being a smart-ass), but the overall sentiment is lovely.

    • June 12, 2013 at 9:09 AM

      I love that. And I will have to find that FB group. I’ve been following one called “I fucking hate pseudoscience” and I bet they are sibling pages.

      • June 12, 2013 at 9:30 AM

        Lol, they’re possibly run by the same people! Now I have to find the pseudoscience group!

  64. June 12, 2013 at 3:03 AM

    I came over to your blog, sort of ‘following’ you from BBW … and I am so glad to have done so. Your blog is great -:)!

    The warmth and humanity you have shown in this post is truly beautiful, as are the memories you shared about your father. Thank you.

    Daniela

    • June 12, 2013 at 7:14 AM

      Thank you Daniela,
      I was hesitant to share my post in the comment to your post, but I took a chance that you wouldn’t see it as self-promotion but rather as connection. I’m very grateful to have read your story and want to get to know you better. Thank you for ‘following’ me over here and for YOUR thoughtful comment.
      Kylie

  65. June 11, 2013 at 7:52 PM

    Beautiful writing and a gorgeous life to write about. Lives, really – since I got to know so much about you in the process of learning about your complex, deep, supportive, brave father. Thank you for sharing – it takes guts. And it’s so so so special.

    • June 11, 2013 at 8:06 PM

      Thanks Ashley. It’s not always so heavy around here. There are lots of post about vegan muffins, too :-)

      • June 11, 2013 at 8:10 PM

        I know. I’m stalking your shit right now. ;)

        • June 11, 2013 at 8:31 PM

          Ha! There’s s vegangelism tab somewhere in the nav menu at the top. I’m playing all cool like I don’t really know it’s under the Who is Kylie? Section.

  66. June 11, 2013 at 6:21 PM

    Very touching piece.

    • June 11, 2013 at 6:48 PM

      Thanks, Ross.
      Don’t worry. I’m working on a piece where Dorothy Parker tweets about food. Things will lighten up around here soon.

  67. June 11, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    Kylie, I am forever a fan of you and what you put into words because you write so honestly and beautifully. You invitation to “really know you, at least a little” instantly beckoned me; and you did not disappoint–of course you never do–I was stunned (I never knew this history of yours those many years ago when we shared the same school), then so sad for you, your bother, sister and mom; and then, at the same time, more in awe of you and the life you live and the woman you’ve become. So lovely my friend, so lovely.

    • June 11, 2013 at 6:48 PM

      Wendy, thank you. I can’t believe you didn’t know about this! I guess it’s an illusion of adolescence that everybody can see into and through us. It makes me wonder what I don’t know about YOU (plenty!) and everybody else.

  68. June 11, 2013 at 7:42 AM

    This made me cry. What a beautiful letter to your Dad.

    • June 11, 2013 at 10:41 AM

      Oh… thank you. Sometimes it’s all such a jumble, but it was time to get it out.

  69. June 11, 2013 at 3:44 AM

    This was a stunning rememberance, thank you for sharing.

    • June 11, 2013 at 10:40 AM

      Thank you, Valentine. There was so much more to say. Thanks, as ever, for reading and commenting.

    • May 15, 2014 at 12:08 AM

      thank you

  70. Susan
    June 10, 2013 at 7:53 AM

    Kylie: Wow! What an incredibly moving tribute to your Dad. You, beautiful girl, are an amazing writer. I imagine your father is pleased at how strong and confident all of his children have become as adults.

  71. Momo
    June 9, 2013 at 10:32 PM

    Absolutely beautiful, Kylie. So much about your dad and your relationship with him that I never knew. And I’d never seen photos of him. That last line really resonates with me. Thank you for writing this.

  72. imperfectlyparented
    June 9, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    That was beautiful, Kylie. Your dad was so memorable with such a larger than life personality. He was incredibly charismatic and I remember being fascinated by his stories and little tricks. It’s a little eerie in that last picture how much he looks like the giant painting Grandma kept in her dining room of our grandfather. I never realized the resemblance before.

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