Moments of Fatherhood

Derek Ouellette —  January 29, 2011

When Dad was about my age. No wonder I love guitar.

When Dad was about my age. No wonder I love guitar.

On January 29th 2009 my father passed away at age 49. He had a knee operation which resulted in a blood clot which carried to his heart and caused a massive heart attack.

At the bottom of this post are links to my description of the morning dad passed away plus two testimonies, one by my mother and the other by me, and a dedication song by Jeremy Camp: There Will Be A Day. Dad liked Jeremy Camp.

I have lived a relatively unbegrieved life. Losing dad has been extraordinarily hard on me. In many ways I feel like our family has fractured since his passing. My dad was not the best father in the world. He and my mother nearly separated on numerous occasions. Yelling and screaming in our home was routine. Dad never held a job much and never took care of his health – which was poor to begin with.

Yet inspite of all of this, there is a hole in our lives since his passing which throbs in pain. His absence is duly noticed.

At Christmas time Dad always played “Santa Clause”. He often put on the Santa hat and would wave his hands at us kids, and then as we grew older, at the grand-kids, and say “look out, look out would you” as he would shoo everyone back from the tree. He was a pretty good Santa. The past two years I have tried to fit my head in the Santa hat. It’s not easy. Dad’s head was bigger then mine . I’m not nearly as good at playing Santa as he was.

I remember when I wanted to learn to tie a necktie. My sister tried to teach me, but her’s always looked crooked. She called it a “Windsor Knot”. I don’t know if there is an actual tie called a “Windsor Knot”, but in any case, they were crooked knots. On Sunday mornings for about three weeks I stood next to dad in front of a large mirror watching as he slowly tied his own, and copying step by step until I had finally mastered the art to tying a necktie. To me it is moments like that which make fatherhood so special. Men who miss out on those opportunities miss out on some of the greatest joys in life. I have no children yet. But when I do I’ll searching for moments like that. And when they come I’ll pray that God would slow them down so we could enjoy each moment in slow motion.

My father inspired me to play guitar. Often we would sit down together in the living room, pull out our gits and rock it out. When I got older my abilities soon surpassed his and as I learned to play contemporary praise and worship music I would grow frustrated with him for not being able to keep up. I feel bad for that now of course. But I cherish those times. I loved to play and he loved to play with me. I’d get alone and begin to play and before long he would join me. I would position the sheet music so we could both read the chords and – with our not-so-good voices – we would enter into some awesome times of worship towards God. I don’t know if I ever thanked him for inspiring me to play guitar, but if I could right now, I would.

As I write this an interesting coincidence has occurred to me: I have not played guitar in two years. I have never made the connection before, but I wonder if in losing my father I have somehow lost my song.

As I entered my mid twenties a special thing began to happen. My dad began to look on my life with a great deal of pride. He always told me how proud he was of me. He shared with me how many regrets he carried in his life. He loved my wife like his very own daughter and was so proud of me for having married her. He admired my passion to know the Lord more through studying his word and often wanted to talk and learn from me. Dad wanted to learn from me. That is a humbling thought. In many ways I often felt like dad’s priest or pastor or spiritual leader. Often times I felt it was a role better suited for someone else. Perhaps a stranger in a cloth or someone older and wise. But he came to me. He valued my thoughts. He confessed his struggles. He wanted my prayers.

Another cool thing is this: the older he got the more we hugged. The more time we spent together. The more movies we watched together. The more time we spent at the mall together. The more drives we went on together. Together. That word captures the direction our relationship grew in the years leading up to his passing.

To this day I grieve. Occasionally I have a hard time sleeping. If I ever think about this stuff – like now as I write this – my eyes tear up and my nose drips. I love you dad and I painfully miss you.

Oh, and you should know that “dad” was really “step-dad”. But does that really matter?

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.