Some of my earliest memories of my dad flicker through my mind like an old movie projector. When I was a little girl, we lived in the country in dusty West Texas, so playmates were pretty hard to find. I chased the puppies, following them into their dog houses, scoured the pastures for lizards, and collected frogs as friends. My favorite animal, like most little girls was the horse, mostly because my dad worked with them. My first “family” horse, Doll, froze in place the second she sensed my presence. I watched in awe as my dad brushed her silky coat, stroking her long mane, and waiting for him to put me on her back. I watched him ride with the utmost admiration and love. I idolized my dad at that age and wanted to be with him as much as possible. I remember on frigid winter mornings, he headed out to ride, and asked me to stay inside with my mother. It’s too cold today. I watched out the window for a while, and then asked my mom if I could play with the dogs in the yard (with other plans in mind). I would scan the fields until I saw the top of his hat bouncing and I would take off, trotting after him with my stick horse, my breath surrounding me in steamy puffs.
Not long after, he would turn back and pick me up, swoop down and get me. He tossed me in front of him and tucked my stick horse into his saddle bag. We wouldn’t ride too far because it was usually cold, but it meant the world to me. He taught me how to ride, what animal tracks to look for, and showed me other things from the view from his saddle.
It’s been two years, March 17, since my Daddy passed away. It felt differently this year than the last. The chasm he left in my life with his passing is still present, only not quite as large. Two years later, it’s more like the knotted rough scar tissue after a wound has healed; bumpy and tough. I think once the initial shock wears off and you go through the first year of grief, the learning process begins. I still miss him so much and I often speak to him. When I picture him off in the spirit world, I think of him up on his saddle riding on a horse somewhere waiting for me. Not long after his passing, I started taking photos of abandoned places again, and every time I go I think of him and wonder what he would think about each place.
The stroke changed his life, and tethered him to his apartment. No longer able to ride horses, hunt, fish or go on adventures, my dad lost the spark in his eyes. We were all he had left. I have realized over this last year in my experience how strong in spirit and mind my dad was by how much he endured during his last few years of life. I can’t really compare my pain to his, but I honestly don’t know how he endured it for so long. There are days the guilt twists so hard I think I might choke on it. Think about the gifts you have been given and the things you most love to do. What if tomorrow they were taken away? Could you be happy? My dad found a way to live without them. I’m not sure if I ever told him how much I admired him for that, but what an enormous accomplishment. Enjoy those gifts today because tomorrow you might not have them. Loop back around for someone you love and share your view with them, because they might not be here tomorrow.
I have heard after someone dies we only remember the kind things about them-that you develop some kind of amnesia, forgetting the negative traits and memories. I had already forgiven my dad for everything prior to his death. I choose to remember him not for only his positive traits but as a human who tried his best with what life gave him. I know my dad was far from perfect, as none of us are, but he was the best dad for me. I’m thankful for each moment I shared with him and for all of my memories. I remember the view from his saddle.
“Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just live.” –Jojo Moyes, Me Before You
Trish Eklund is taking a nontraditional approach to parenting children after divorce and remarriage. Raising her two daughters of thirteen and sixteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife, they consult one another on all parenting decisions. Trish is the owner and creator of Family Fusion Community, an online community for blended families of all types. Trish is featured on Huffington Post Divorce. Trish is also the creator of Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed, a photographic adventure in the abandoned and forgotten. Her abandoned photography has been featured on Only in Your State. She is a regular feature writer on Her View From Home, a lifestyle magazine that connects your view to the rest of the world. Trish Eklund has an essay, Happy Endings, in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz. The first book telling the story of blended family life solely from the perspective of the step-kids. Follow her on Twitter: @trishiewriter, Pinterest, and Instagram.