“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”
— T.S. Eliot
Normally at the end of the year, I reflect on the previous 12 months and try to recognize all the wonderful things that happened. I like to think about the vacations taken and the new, beautiful places I got to see. I like going through my photos and seeing normal, every day adventures. I like replaying holidays and hikes and birthdays. Then I like thinking about what I accomplished at work and and my favorite stories, and after all that, I usually like to make new goals and plan on doing things I’ve never done before.
Well, we all know the end of the last year was really different for me and I didn’t really reflect on the the things I normally do. The last couple weeks of December were all about simply making it through those tough days. Sure, there was a lot of reflection, but sometimes I was reflecting over my whole life, not just the last 12 months, and thinking of new goals wasn’t exactly in the forefront of my mind.
I thought about a lot lasts with my dad. There was our last conversation. The last time I saw him in person, and the last time we went for a hike and watched a movie, and went to a concert together.
The day before he died, we’d talked via speaker phone with my mom and the discussion went something like this: Disneyland plans and … poop.
Travis and I had just hosted an ugly sweater party the weekend before and when we exchanged white elephant gifts, I ended up with a book called “Poophemisms: Over 1,737 Fun Ways to Talk About Taking a Poop.” The book is basically a list of all the ways you can say poop and I knew my dad would get a kick out of it. So, I told him a few phrases like “Gone With the Wind,” “bake brownies,” “Do the Deed.”
He took me up on this right away and started asking if more phrases were in the book. I can’t remember for the life of me what his suggestions were, but none of them were in the book, and he named at least five. So then my mom said it sounded like he could write his own poop book and we all laughed.
While it might be nice to say the last conversation we had was philosophical or that I learned something really profound from him that night, I honestly can’t think of a better last conversation. It was funny and so us.
One of my favorite quotes about beginnings and endings comes from the movie “Hope Floats,” when little Birdie Pruitt says, “She says that beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will, too …”
My last conversation with my dad was still in “the middle” – in the part that counts the most. It was before everything turned sad and scary. While I can’t say every interaction with my dad was positive (I don’t think anyone can say that about their family), I’m so grateful that the majority of our “middle” was good, fun and inspiring.
There were so many beginnings and endings my dad was part of. He and my mom got me in piano lessons at age 8 and they bought my clarinet when it was decided I would take band classes in junior high. They were there for my first and last performances, and came to voice recitals in college when I decided to take on lessons.
He was there to give me advice and hope every year I started a new grade, and he read my stories when they first started printing in the local newspaper in high school. In college, he was the person I wanted to call after one of my first interviews for a college newspaper story because it had to do with mounting animals.
I was pretty miserable at sports, but he would come to my games when I tried something new like softball, or basketball or soccer. And when I started running races in college, I believe he was at every finish line with a camera, and a couple of times, he drove with me and my mom so we could run in Bryce Canyon or St. George. One of the last half marathons I completed was in Ogden almost three years ago, and he showed up to cheer us on wearing an Angry Birds shirt and a bell around his neck. I don’t know how else he could have better said “I’ll be there with bells on.”
He was there at my college graduation with a rose, camera and plans to pay for everyone’s lunch at Firehouse after. And when I ended my years of part-time work and started my first full-time job, he was happy for me and proud of my decision to stay in Logan.
Every time I needed help moving apartments because a school year ended or my life situation changed, he’d show up with his truck to help pack me up for the next adventure. The most notable of these moves was when he helped me close some chapters in Utah and move to New Mexico, even though I know he was nervous for me, and probably wasn’t sure I’d made the right decision.
He was there at the beginning of my marriage – I mean, he actually pronounced me and Travis married – and he gave me hope that we could have something as special as he and my mom.
More recently, he was here the weekend Travis and I made an offer on our first home. I often think about the day he came with us to look at this house and how he sat on the patio furniture in the backyard and made himself comfortable. It was like if my dad liked this house, then it was going to be OK.
Now we’re almost three weeks in this new year – this new beginning – and he’s not here like he used to be. I don’t have all my goals set up, so I’m not sure what I’d tell him I’m planning to do if he were here. Well, I do know of a couple things. I want to start a business, ski in Telluride, see Seattle, and go to a Garth Brooks concert. Other than the business, these are things that just kind of came up recently, but I know he’d be happy for me to tell him the stories and see my new work.
Today I went for a bike ride for the first time in 2015 and it was haaaaarrrrddddd, and I told myself I should make the goal to do that ride without any stops. I couldn’t help but ask for his help a couple times as I felt that bike ride everywhere – in my Jell-O legs, to my gasping-for-air lungs, to my heart that was beating wildly. I think he would have been proud of me because he was always excited to hear I’d tried something – from biking to hiking to climbing. I think he’d be glad to hear I want to get so much better.
There are still so many more beginnings, middles and endings to come because life is that way, and it changes often. There will be many more firsts and lasts.
To end this post, I want to share the last video I took of him. It was filmed Thanksgiving Day, and I found it unexpectedly a couple weeks after he passed away. I’d forgotten all about it. To give you some context, we were talking about the Live Long and Prosper sign from “Star Trek” for some reason, and my mom said she couldn’t get her fingers to move that way. So, my dad started helping her and I caught the end of it. We all laughed, and then my dad signed off with his signature peace sign and “bye bye.”
Oh, how I miss him. Live Long and Prosper in our dreams and somewhere close, Dad. Cheer us on and help us through the beginnings, middles and endings the rest of our lives.