So tonight, 363 days ago, I was sitting at my sisters wedding reception. I was enjoying watching Dad and Zoey cut a rug and had no problem sending Abby on to the house with Mom. Looking back, as I have often over the last year, I wish I had more photos from the reception of Mom and Dad. I wish I would have listened to Mom and gotten a sitter so she and Dad could enjoy the night, but we didn't.
Sunday morning rolled around and it was time for Mike and I to pack up the car and head back to Alexander City. Dad called to say he would be dropping by before he left to go visit some friends and catch his flight back to San Antonio. Dad, like always was running late, and I like always, was madder than all get out. I had the girls dressed and ready and everyone was exhausted from staying up late the night before. The girls were ready for a nap and since Mike and I were going to have to drive back separately, I wanted to get on the road before the girls had a breakdown.
Dad finally arrived as we were loading the cars to head home. He tried to get Zoey to give him a hug, but she was to engrossed in Mickey at the moment. Abby just wanted milk and a hug so she sat with him for a few minutes and then the blasted phone started ringing. Mike and I finished loading the cars and gave the girls a snack. In between phone calls Dad asked if we had a good time and if I had any of Jenn's travel arrangements. I told him I made her swear she would at least call someone to tell us when they landed in Mexico and when they were leaving to head home the following Saturday. He asked if we had gotten to try the cake and I told him not really, but we had a good time and we really enjoyed watching Zoey have a good time. I told him the it was a nice day and everyone was going to be okay. Dad looked sad, and exhausted. At the time I thought he was sad because Jenn's mom wasn't there to share the day with use. Though I will say Jenn's friends found the perfect way to honor and remember Sharon and it will not be forgotten. I told Dad I couldn't wait to see the photos because I was sure there were lots of them. I told him that I had enjoyed the week with him and was counting down the days to Chad's wedding, because he would be home for good.
My conversation was short and broken with Dad. I asked if he wanted us to stay for a few more minutes and he said no to head on out, it would only be a few weeks before he saw us again. He helped Mike and I down with the girls. On the way down the stairs he told me to change the oil in the car, find out if Mom was okay, and that he was really really proud of my new car. I told him thanks and I would. I told him I would let him know when I heard something from Jenn. He told Mike by, hugged the girls and walked over to give me my hug goodbye.
Dad gave me my hug and told me how much he loved me. He said I hope she's happy. I told him that she was, and that he should go home and pack his bags because for the first time, we were all in a place we could take care of ourselves, it was time for him to see his grandchildren. He told me he would be home soon and to remind Mom she was supposed to go look at some houses that week. He hugged me one more time and I got into the drivers seat. I waved to him as we drove off and let the girls call their goodbyes from the back seat as we headed down the road.
A year later, I never would have thought that would have been my final hug from my Dad. I never dreamed that this was the last time I would see him alive and somewhat happy. Dad was exhausted, one wedding down, one to go, a job that was wearing him out, and a never ending house hunt to get back home to his family.
Over the next three weeks I would talk to my Dad on the phone everyday. I would tell him how the girls were and the things that were going on with work and school. I would have a lot of moments on the phone with him and I talked to him everyday for the next three weeks. I'll talk more about my final conversation and April 5, 2011, at 9:18 PM when I looked at my phone and said to myself, "I should call Dad, oh I'm tired, I'll talk to him tomorrow." I never talked to Dad again. I gave up my last potential conversation for selfish reasons and have thought about it for a year. But for now, I will remember the hugs and the final moments, and the last I love yous that I got to say in person. I can always be sad tomorrow.