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Daddy's Corner

Dad’s Birthday

Today, Dad would have been 76 years old, which is an odd thing to think about. Still young enough that, all in all, it would be normal for him to be living still, but old enough that I can’t imagine him actually being that age.

Here is me with him at probably the last time I wasn’t a pain in his neck at 2 months old.

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Daddy's Corner Featured Reflections

20 Years

I’ve struggled with what to write to mark 20 years since my dad died. It’s probably the most common regular topic I’ve written about over the years. Earlier this month, a very close friend lost his mother. A few days ago, I talked heart-to-heart with another friend who lost his father earlier in the year. As the posts over the year demonstrate, it’s a weird journey–grief. No matter the age, losing a parent can be very hard. If you’re in that situation yourself, you’re not alone and it’s okay to grieve however you’re doing it, as long as you’re not hurting yourself or others around you.

One thing I’ve been wanting to do for years is put his casket flag in a nice case with his military decorations. It has literally taken me 20 years, but I finally put it together this evening.

 

 

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Daddy's Corner

Ed Kraft, 1954-2016

My uncle died yesterday. He was 62 years old.

Uncle Ed and Aunt Lynette with Olivia and Catalina
Uncle Ed and Aunt Lynette with Olivia and Catalina

I must admit learning of his passing yesterday morning, I cried for the first time I can remember. True, actual sobbing. I’m sure it was ugly. I didn’t cry when my dad died—a random tear here or there during the immediate events and cry some more recently looking back, struggling with his death still. But, I’ve never actually sobbed upon hearing sad news before yesterday morning.

We last saw him six weeks ago at a family reunion in South Dakota—an epic road trip for a family of seven. He didn’t look 100%. Within a week of us heading back to Texas, he found out that he had cancer. You always see these things better in hindsight.

My dad was one of 12 children—10 surviving past childhood. Of the 10, six brothers and four sisters. My dad was the first to pass away in 1997. Ed is now the 4th of the boys. While my uncles have always taken special care of me, be it their oldest brother’s youngest who lost Dad when I was 12, it has been such a joy for them to equally take a special interest in my kids. There are many things hard about not having Dad around to see them grow up and I’ve voiced difficulty in picturing Dad playing with my kids. Having my uncles treat my girls as I could imagine my Dad doing has been a true grace.

Of my uncles, he was the one whose looks and mannerisms reminded me most of Dad. I wanted him to live forever, even if it was unfair of me to want it, in part, because he helped me put an adult context to the fading childhood memories of my Dad dead 19 years. Quite selfish, to be honest. He was a good man who was kind, loving, and sweet in a wonderfully gruff way. I’m going to miss him dearly.

 

Blessed are those who have died in the Lord;
let them rest from their labors,
for their good deeds go with them.

Eternal rest grant unto him , O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon him.

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Amen.

 

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Daddy's Corner

At the end of the day…

It has been 18 years now and at the end of the day, I still just miss my dad.
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Daddy's Corner Reflections

Stephen Colbert and Facing Death

Not too long ago, GQ published a fantastic article on Stephen Colbert as he prepares to take the reigns of The Late Show from the 23-year veteran David Letterman. I like Colbert. From everything I’ve heard of him, he’s a man who is simply solid. A man of faith, of family, of generally trying to be a good person. Others in the late night/comedy scene aren’t so.

I knew that he had tragedy in his past. I knew he lost his father and brothers in a plane crash at a relatively young age, but I hadn’t reflected much on that until this article. The author, Joel Lovell, very smartly and reflective of the style of storytelling from This American Life, led us deeper into Colbert by framing it around tragedy.

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Daddy's Corner

On This Day, 15 Years Ago

15 years.

For those who only know me from the interwebs and only care about either freelancing or web development, indulge me today. If you’d rather not read a personal story, feel free to move along. The next post will be on message, I promise. You can delete the e-mail now. No hard feelings.

15 years ago is etched into my memory. Exact times, voices, feelings will be forever present in my memory in a second’s thought. 15 years, when I was 12 years old, my father passed away. The tl;dr version is that he had a medical condition that slowly took him away from us, although at the time, I hadn’t the slightest clue it could take his life. I still struggle with the memories of the days before his death; what would be the last interactions I had with him. Those moments are truly the most regretful moments of my short life.

I don’t recall September 18th. He was in the hospital, which was no longer out of the ordinary. We had to take him to the emergency room on a somewhat regular basis. He’d spend 24, 36 or so hours in the hospital and we’d continue on again. Dad just needed a refill of blood again. No biggie.

September 19th, my mom woke me up around 1:30 a.m. The hospital had called at 1:24 a.m. We needed to get there. My mom was a wreck. She called my grandfather and siblings. Her nerves wouldn’t allow her to drive; my grandfather was coming to take us.

1:52 a.m. The phone rang again. We had only one phone; it looked more like a desk phone that belonged in an office than something on the “window sill” between the kitchen and living room. Mom answered it. Moments later, she slammed the phone on the table. She ran into the dining room, throwing herself to the ground and letting out a cry I’ve never heard in real life before or since. I picked up the phone—still off the hook—and spoke: “Yes?”

“Mr. Kraft has passed away.”

I said thank you to the nurse as I heard the call waiting click. What else would you say? My arms and legs went numb. My stomach dropped. Time to call my siblings. Time to find Mom.

At 1:48 a.m., everything in my world had changed.

I’m not sure how without coffee I managed to be awake for the next 24 hours, after only getting at most three hours of sleep before getting the call, but nevertheless, between the hospital, the funeral home, school (dropping off a paper I printed for a friend without a printer at home), random errands, and my sister’s house, it wasn’t until the morning hours of September 20th I was able to rest.

After all these years, I remember the conversations taking place as the family discussed the details of the obituary. I remember exactly where in the “casket showroom” was the one that I thought would be best and suggesting it to my mom. I remember finding an unused office in the funeral home with a phone. I would just call “the weather line”— 940-692-9999 for those who are curious what the temperature is in Wichita Falls at the moment—over and over again.

No one close to me had died before. My paternal grandmother had died years before, but I had only met her once and didn’t go to the funeral. There should be a manual of things to know if your first experience with death is with someone so close. Little things like the casket isn’t opened at the church. Folks were telling me to say goodbye at the funeral home, but I didn’t get it.

The Mass—my first Mass as far as I’m aware—had two moments that left a mark on me. It was held in the Parish Hall since the church itself was under renovation. They had placed some movable stairs at the front up to the stage, where the altar was located. The pallbearers placed the casket too close to the stairs so Fr. Koch had to slightly push the casket out of the way. Secondly, I remember the Our Father. I don’t know if I had ever heard it being recite en masse before and the “s’es” stood out (“forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who tresspass against us”).

The 21-gun salute. The flag being presented to my mom.

The one positive highlight, if you will, was from showing around my aunts and uncles. My dad was the oldest of ten surviving kids and seven of them (if I recall correctly) were able to come down, mostly from South Dakota, for the funeral. They didn’t know what my dad did for the Air Force (after retirement, as a civilian, communications instructor), but they were curious. Just imagine this scene. Two black Suburbans completely full pull up to the gate of the Air Force Base. Little 12-year old Kraft in the first car’s passenger seat. When we stop at the sentry, I reach over to hand them my military ID. I explain that we’re going to head on base to visit my now-deceased father’s shop (“the shop” is what he called his office) and I was going to escort the occupants of this vehicle and the one behind us—his brothers and sisters—for the tour.

The sentry paused. Asked me if I knew where I was going. “Yes, sir.” I told them the building number. Were we expected? No, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be an issue.

After a second, he waved us through. My uncle (and Godfather) who was driving was impressed.

I digress. Last year’s post, specifically “Knowing exactly the pain of having a father you know and love taken away from you irrevocably far before you’re even mindful of the possibility, my greatest fear for Olivia, Catalina and our future family additions (should God so choose to bless us with more)[Eds. Note: #3 is due in less than a month.], is for them to experience that pain themselves.” still applies. This year, though, realizing that 15 years has passed and how crystal those moments still are is what has struck me.

Sadly, they are clearer to me than memories of him alive.