Okay...NBC's 'This Is Us' has my attention. Not because it's all the rage...not because it produces more feels than being in love for the first time and not because it shamelessly exploits our need for over-the-top drama. No...it has my attention for two reasons; one, I've always loved observing the nuances of human behavior and this show nails them at every level and two; my father was Jack Pearson. Okay, not literally, but damn close enough.
So...if you are also a fan...you know this week was heart wrenching. If you are not a watcher, it's worth the hour each week; it's like watching your own family videos in technicolor. For those of us who've had the unbelievable experience of having a father like Jack...and even for those who imagined having a father like Jack...this week was most certainly an emotional reminder.
My father was handsome like Jack and cool, always cool. He saw the best in everything and everyone; his encouraging words were always at our side; he always believed things were possible. He was the 'go to' when we were losing faith. And at a time in history when most men thought household chores were considered 'women's work', my father happily shared those duties with my mom.
His capability to find the humor in everything was limitless and it created many silly memories. He would arrive to pick us up from school driving with his seat reclined so it looked like the car was driving itself. When my mom wasn't looking, he would push his teeth out at the dinner table to make us laugh. He would make fun of us until we didn't take things or ourselves so seriously. The only time we would see him truly lose it was when the Tupperware piles would avalanche out of the kitchen cabinet. I think that cabinet represented chaos and that was never a place he enjoyed. It wasn't funny then, but now...
His loving temperament taught us to stay calm under pressure and his willingness to communicate before reacting was a result of his not wanting the same childhood for his kids he held in his own memory.
His kindness was legendary. Of everything about him, it's his kindness I miss the most and his heartfelt, enduring hugs. Like Jack Pearson, our father died early and unexpectedly in his life.
My spiritual self knows that I have really never lost him but my human experience is about the sadness I still feel, because I will never see him grow gray or enjoy his wise years. I won't get to return the favor by caring for him in his fragile years. My heart hates that his influence wasn't present throughout my children's lives and yet...it was. I see him in my son in so many ways and my daughter feels the special love he had for her, still. He was a role model to my husband and I often wonder how his continued friendship would have blessed both their lives.
I miss that I did not see his face when I experienced my dreams coming true; dreams that he always encouraged even when it didn't seem likely or practical. Perhaps, he influences them in a different way now. Sometimes it tears me up that my sister did not have his arm when she walked down the aisle. My brother did not have the chance to develop that father/son friendship that comes with aged experience and appreciation among men. We were all just getting started really. But because of his loving example and that of my mom, as siblings, we remain dedicated to each other, and as aunts and uncle to our collective children.
Many adults do not want to be the same kind of parent to their children as our parents were for us...we each strive to be half the parent he was.
He was not perfect, but I think he tried to be...for us. Those efforts revealed his heart more than anything. But he helped to raise emotionally intelligent children and we always saw his sweet vulnerability.
Now, 22 years later...there are times the grief in my heart can make it seem like yesterday. He was the first true love of my life and besides my mother...I his. As Rebecca (Jack's wife) leaves the coffee cup in the console, as a symbol of his existence...I too, keep the last gift my father gave me; a beautiful jar of potpourri, for my 34th birthday...he died a few days later. I keep a fork from the utensil drawer too...his fork. I cannot seem to part with either...they remind me of his thoughtfulness, the gentleness of his spirit and the generosity of his soul.
I will turn the age this year, that was my father's last. And it took a dramatic series to bring out some lingering grief...and clearly...all the ways his legacy is ever present. My children have benefited from an encouraging and dedicated parent because I inherently carried those qualities. And their father was equally dedicated because I knew how to choose a man who knew how to love me and them; a tribute to the love my father had for his children and his wife and the way he taught us to love ourselves first. Those who know me, know I never turn from my dreams because I remember the twinkle in his eye when he encouraged us to fly, so I stay the course.
Yes, it's hard to lose a Jack Pearson. It's like losing a compass in the forest of hearts.
But as I sit hear and remember him, I realize something...for all the things we lost when we lost him...we continue to carry something that can't ever be taken...my siblings and I are KIND human beings raising other kind human beings. That my friends is the true legacy of a Jack Pearson.