Last Wednesday morning at 2:28am, we received horrendous news. I knew nothing good was coming from a phone call from Dave’s brother, Dylan, that early in the morning. But I had no idea how bad the news was until I heard him tell Dave that “dad was on his way into work on his bike and swerved to not hit a deer”, “he’s gone”, “he was gone before I got here”. I remember ripping the phone out of Dave’s hand and shouting “No” numerous times. I have no idea where Dave went. For all I know he was in the room still or he left. It’s a blur from then on. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I still can’t. My head knows what is happening but my heart cannot believe that he is gone.
The hardest part was telling Madelyn and answering her questions. She knows that she won’t see him again but she doesn’t understand why he hit a deer, why didn’t he drive instead and why didn’t the hospital fix his head? All legitimate questions that are so heartbreaking to answer. I know her feelings are hard to figure out so she lashes out. She hit me at the visitation because she wanted to leave. So she did. I hate that she is hurting.
I’ll never forget the first time I met him. It was in the beginning of mine and Dave’s relationship when we all went out to eat. I instantly knew I fit in. They made me feel so comfortable and everyone was so laid back and at ease; making jokes about each other and telling hilarious stories. This is how it always was and now they were including me. We began visiting dad’s house in Mukwonago often and each time we went, it was a party. The door was always open for anyone to stop by. Drinks were handed out and food prepared. Friends of Emily and Dylan would walk through as well as other friends and family. There was never a dull moment. There was never any sadness. But then again, who could be sad when Nate was so infectious. His personality shined. His smiles were abundant and plentiful. He would go out of his way to make you feel comfortable and he’d drop anything to help out and be there when you needed him.
I remember when he first brought over Caren to meet us. Dave and I moved in together and they came over on the Harley after they stopped by the winery in Sauk. I never knew his wife, Paula, who passed away from cancer a few years before, but I saw the happiness in both of their eyes. I knew we’d be family forever.
I have so many great memories of being on Pearl Ave getting to know Emily and Dylan, Dave’s brother and sister, as well as the rest of the family. So many smiles and tears- but those tears are only from laughing so hard.
Then, we got married and soon children came into the picture. Grandkids for Nate. Madelyn would be his second grandchild and beautiful Kay was the first. He had 2 wonderful grandchildren within 6 months of each other. By this time, dad, Caren, Emily and Dylan had moved outside of town where they had land for firepits, gardens and soon to be trails and plenty of room for the honey bees. We visited often still but soon life took over and visits became less frequent. Dad worked night shift with lots of overtime sometimes and we didn’t want to be a bother. Once Asher was born, the visits were still less frequent. 2 kids were exhausting and I tried to work as much as possible. Days off where we had nothing planned were rare. But when we had them, we’d visit. Each time we would pull up in the car, dad would be walking toward us already grabbing one of the kids from our hands. Asher loved grandpa. So, did Madelyn, but Asher instantly would throw himself into his arms, whereas Madelyn would look around for Kay or Justice to be around to play. The next question would be “what do you want to drink?”
I could still see him. The genuine smile on his face as he whisked the kids out to play. They’d run around the house, look at bees, swing, play games, etc. There were so many times I would sit back and watch him play with the kids. I wish I would have grabbed the camera out and took pictures, but I didn’t want to move from that spot. I was spying on memories. Little did I know that I needed to spy so that I could tell my kids the wonderful memories that grandpa was making with them because they wouldn’t remember them and they wouldn’t have the opportunity to make more. Making a firepit, harvesting honey, jumping in the castle. There’s so many great memories.
The last time we saw him was about a month ago when we were visiting Dave’s grandpa at the rehab facility that he stayed at following a fall. The kids were jumping around in the room and even though it was raining outside, he grabbed the kids coats and took them out. I remember walking outside to head back home and I watched him chase after the kids in the rain, smiling as always. I could still hear his voice shouting to the kids because they got so far ahead of them and I could hear the kids laughter as he ran after them. Wonderful memory.
Dad had so many friends. Everyone loved him. To know him is to love him. Each party would bring easily 100 people, if not more. I recall seeing him just sitting, quietly in front of the fire many times, undisturbed. I always wondered what he was thinking as he stared into the fire. I’m hoping that it was him thinking about how wonderful this life is. How loved he is. And I hope he saw how happy he was making everyone around him. Although my heart is breaking at the loss of him in our lives, in my children’s lives. I know that he is watching us and seeing his grandkids grow. I know he would want us to continue making those memories with Caren, Emily and Dylan. I hope with each new memory, our hearts heal.
That’s who dad was to me. But I have regrets. Regrets of not coming over enough. Regrets of not telling him how much he meant to me. Regrets I’ll have to live with. I have more good memories in the 15 years that I’ve known him than I have with my own father. I miss him terribly.