My Father transitioned into an Ancestor in February of 1996. I was one month away from my 21st birthday. Those were tumultuous times. He and I had fought about what I perceived to be gaps in our relationship. We were estranged, but I felt the urge to make it "right".
I remember visiting him in the nursing home that day (he was only 52). I stood over his bed and looked at him sleep. He must have felt my presence because he woke up almost immediately after I got there. He noticed that I was crying. He asked me, "Why are you crying son"? So I asked him, "Have I been a good son?" His response was, "Of course man! But listen, don't worry about those people at Xavier (University in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I was currently enrolled). Just finish up! Look man, I'm about to go back to sleep. I love you". He was under morphine.
I knew that this was my last conversation with him. I bent down and kissed him, and left. His words were the only reason that I eventually graduated from college.
I went through my twenties, and my thirties, and excelled at making mistakes. But there was this gap there. So many times I wanted to ask my father for advice, but I couldn't. And I wasn't really feeling other men who were trying to play that role of adviser. I wasn't trying to hear it. I felt like I had to navigate manhood on my own and find the answers that I was seeking. Like I said before, I don't always learn from my mistakes, but when I do I guarantee it was the hard way. I began drinking heavily to soothe the gap. Alcohol became such a reliable companion. It asked no questions, just took the pain away (so I thought).
By the time I was 28, I'd become a father. And a felon. With a degree from a prestigious University.
Needless to say, it was extremely difficult to provide for my family with a felony on my record. But I persevered.
By the time I was 37, I was separated and eventually divorced. With residential custody of my son.
Becoming a Father most certainly filled the gap of losing my Father, but most importantly, the experiences that I've gained through my twenties and thirties have equipped me to educate my own child as to the stages of manhood that I've successfully completed. I won't go in to great detail about the things that I feel my father didn't teach me, but I recognize the gaps that have existed in my experience from boy to man, and have filled them for my son.
The next phase of anticipation is the conversation that I'll have with him when he's grown so that he can articulately explain to me the gaps that he's felt, so as to continue to guide him so that he's positioned to fill those for his child(ren).
That way he'll be better able to handle that grown man conversation that his children will bring to him about they're perceived gaps.
As always, thanks for listening.