My father, Donald I Townsend, passed away on March 10th, 2013. Throughout his sickness, his death, and the coordination of the funeral, I found myself looking back over the years. My father and I were never close. From an early age, I had come to expect not to see him very much, as most of his time was devoted to working as a chemical engineer for Dow Chemical.
His work was very important to him, as well as to many others. In fact, one of his inventions, the ARC, is now used in countless chemical companies across the globe and has saved many, many lives over the last 30 years. I do not begrudge my fathers work, nor do I wish he had done things differently – he did what he loved and what he knew how to do better than most people. I simply wish there had been a little more time for his family somewhere in there.
My father was an amazing man. According to so many friends from his distant and not so distant past, the praises and stories poured forth when they learned of his death and preceding illness. I have learned more about my father in the last 3 weeks than I had in the 36 years before them. I was told many funny stories about my fathers childhood by some of his closest friends, whom I’d never met or heard of before. Stories of fast cars, chemical experiments in basements, trips across the country, and so much more. Stories from later in his life, from past colleagues and friends also taught me much about my father. He was loved by all of the people he hired and worked with during his long, prestigious career at Dow.
All of these stories, however, only made me sadder. When I cried at my fathers bedside as he passed, I think I was crying more for what we didn’t have, than the loss of what we did. I cried because I knew that I would never be able to sit down with my father and have him tell me these stories himself. I cried because I am in the middle years of my life and I wasted so much of what time has passed that I could have used to approach my father and try to be a good son. I cried for myself and for my sister who I know loved my father very much. I cried because I didn’t have the nerve to say I’m sorry dad, for all time times I was angry with him and he with me, and the too few times when we felt like an actual father and son.
I wasn’t sure, for years now, if I would have these emotions when the time came. I wasn’t positive I would be able to shed a tear. I harbored so much anger inside me for so many years that I felt it would just come out in one fast rush. As I lay in bed next to him while he took his final breath, rather than rage, all I felt was sorrow and the acute loss of someone I would never be able to make things right with again. It has been a week since he passed, and only a day since his funeral, but I think I have finally figured the man out, figured out that he did love us, but as my sister said, never knew how to show it. I saw the effect he had had on so many peoples lives, and how sorrowful they were at his passing.
In the end, I forgave my father. That part of my body, my mind, where I held all that anger for so many years is beginning to empty, to be replaced by sorrow for the loss of a good man, for the loss of a childhood spent with a father, and for the inability to tell him just how badly I always wanted his approval and admiration, and his love.
I’ll miss you, Dad.