Monday, May 30, 2011

Of loss and gratitude

Most years, Memorial Day meant two things: #1 School was over and #2 My family was going to Evanston, Wyoming.

When people talk about hot destination places to visit on Memorial Day, I'm guessing Evanston isn't near the top of the list. Not that there is anything wrong about Evanston, but a town of roughly 12,000 people near the Utah / Wyoming border isn't exactly a tourist trap.

So what would take us there each year? Aside from going to see our extended family on the Morgan side, we would also go to visit my father's grave.

I was only 6 years old when my father passed away from complications from blood clots--a rare hereditary disease. Back in 1975, they didn't know what was causing it, or really how to treat it properly. However, from what I understand, a lot of what they know now about it was due to what happened to my father.

I remember going up to a hospital near Salt Lake City and having blood drawn. All my extended family was there to be tested. Then one day, we go up and they say they have made a breakthrough. I don't understand all the medical terms, but it if I recall correctly, it had something to do with two chromosomes.

My dad, John Morgan, died at the age of 33. I'm turning 42 this year and I feel like in many ways, my life is just starting. I've often wondered what my life would be like now had he not passed away. He was a high school Spanish and Drama teacher. He had dark, almost black, hair with a winning grin. Although I physically take after my mother's side of the family (red hair, fair skin), I believe I got my sense of humor from him.

He was a kind person, always giving something back to the community. He was the president of something called "Amigos de Las Americas" where people from the USA would help those in Central America.

He was also a very wise man. I've shared this story before, but it's a good time to repeat it. On this one occasion, there was one doughnut left for my sister (who is 3 years older than me) and I to share.

My father gave my sister a butter knife to cut the doughnut in half. Well, she was a bit off--instead of 50/50 it was more like 70/30. As she went to reach for the larger part, my dad stopped her and said, "Now Jason gets to choose which side he wants." I've never forgotten how he always tried to keep things fair, and always taught us to do the right thing.

I'm sure my dad impacted my life in ways I can't even imagine. As a father now myself to 4 amazing daughters, I'll tell them time and again, "Hey, I'm just making this us as I go. I don't know what it's like to be a dad, but I promise to do my best."

So far, it's worked out pretty darn well (with a ton of help and support from my wife). I'm happy to say that my kids make me proud. Are they perfect? Nah. But are they good people? Yes.

To that end, it is my hope and desire that my dad is proud of me and the man I've become. Even though I didn't have a lot of time to spend with him on this earth, I have no doubt he influenced me in ways I don't realize.

And for that, I say, thank you dad. I miss you.