06/16/2015 06:14 pm ET Updated Jun 16, 2016

Without My Dad

My dad passed away. It happened ten years ago, but it could have just as easily happened yesterday.

My dad had been sick for quite some time so it wasn't a complete shock when he died, but the week that he died was unexpected.

I saw him on a Tuesday morning. He wanted to have breakfast. I wanted to have breakfast too but I kept agonizing over the fact that I needed to get into the office. There was so much work to be done. There were meetings to attend, emails to answer, and projects that I simply had to get off my desk. I agreed to breakfast and tried my best not to check my watch or my phone the entire time.

That was Tuesday; he died on Saturday.

It seemed so strange to have had a day where, although we knew my dad was sick, he was walking and talking and laughing and joking around the way he always did, and then, he just died.

It was a powerful reminder that life is short and time is fleeting and it made me happy that I resisted the urge to pass on breakfast I favor of going to the office.

I was there when my dad passed away. The whole family was. Hospice had come in to help make the final hours more comfortable for him. There were a lot of anxious moments spent going between sitting with him at his bed or sitting in the kitchen. We ate a lot; I think it was a distraction.

It was later in the evening, maybe around 9 p.m. or so and I was on the phone with my friend Eric. My mom came into the kitchen after having just been with my dad. She shook her head no and I knew what that meant.

I miss my dad. I'm sure that anyone who has gone through the loss of their father can understand what it's like. My dad and I were tight. When I was a kid, we did everything together. As I got older, we bonded over our service in the military. My dad was in the Navy, I served in the Army. My dad was always so proud of my service. He bragged about me all the time.

Life wasn't always easy. My dad was an alcoholic and times were tough for us growing up. As my dad got older, he struggled with mental illness. Some days it was really challenging with him, as I'm sure it is with most families, and there were times when we didn't really like each other.

But we always loved each other.

I thought about that often in the days, weeks, and months that followed my dad's passing.

We didn't have a service for my father. My mom called the funeral home after his death and they came and took him away. It seemed so clinical. There wasn't really any closure. I think I struggled with that for a long time because it felt like things were unfinished.

When father's day comes around each year, I find myself reminiscing about my dad. I don't think much about the recent times, but I rewind my memories all the way back to when I was a kid.

I think about going to the park to play football and stopping afterwards at the local neighborhood diner for breakfast sandwiches. I think about summers when my dad would come home after working the night shift and I'd wait up for him. We'd go out in the backyard in our little pool and I'd ask him about his work. I think about when we would go to company picnics and he'd show me off to all his coworkers.

Sometimes I wonder what he would think about where I am now and what I'm doing with my life. Sometimes I wonder if he'd still be proud of me and if he'd brag about me to other people. I wonder if he'd approve of the decisions that I've made in life; if he'd be happy about some of the choices I've made.

Other times I think of my dad and I feel guilty that I haven't thought of him more often. Sometimes a day or two will go by and I haven't thought of him at all. I find myself feeling really guilty about that.
But I always think of him around father's day, which just happens to be the day before my birthday this year.

Yesterday, as I was straightening up around the house and putting things away, I saw the flag that we got after my dad passed away. Even though we didn't have a service, because my dad was a veteran, the family still received a flag in his honor. I stopped cleaning and pulled out my dad's old Navy photo album. I thumbed through pictures of my dad in his early 20's and wondered what he was like as a young man.

Without my dad, life still goes on. There is still work to be done, and fun to be had; plans to be made, and decisions to wrestle with. But there always seems to be that certain something that's missing in everything I do. I think that certain something is my dad. I hope I still make him proud.