I feel slightly silly typing this, because I know you can’t read it – though some part of me hopes that, in a way, you can. Many things have changed recently, starting with the fact that I’m not legally a Caplin anymore (though I’m still putting that name on my book covers, don’t worry). I know you knew that was going to happen, and your blessing meant so much. Josh is amazing, Pop. You know how sometimes, kids are told to marry people who share the traits of their opposite-gendered parent? In some cases, that’s very bad advice, but in my life, it was the best advice I’ve ever taken. I see a lot of similar traits you had in Joshua: he’s perpetually optimistic, at times annoyingly so. He chooses to see the good in people. He even sleeps with one arm above his head, like you used to.
I wish you could have been there at the wedding, but we made sure you were, in your own way.
And while my first dance was incredible (you know we danced to Tale as Old as Time from Beauty and the Beast?) I couldn’t help thinking of that time we danced to Pachabel Canon in the dressing room suite at Catan’s Bridal, and how we made all the employees cry. I look at that picture quite a bit, but I still can’t watch that video. I hope you understand.
You would also be so proud to know that I got a book deal, for the first time ever. My next novel will be published with Booktrope, and as soon as I got my acceptance email I thought of you saying I told you so and cried. Seriously, Popsicle, I wrote you off (see what I did there?!) when you told me it would happen some day: Big deal, all parents have to say that stuff about their kids, they’re such precious, talented snowflakes, yada yada yada. Mom posted this picture on Facebook, and I don’t remember what we were talking about, but seeing as I’m wearing my Panera uniform and judging by that…I don’t even know what you call it expression on my face, I’m guessing we were talking about the future, and my fear that I’d never be able to support myself doing what I love most.
We had that conversation many times, and I remember how you’d tilt your head and sing to me, Slow down you crazy child/You’re so ambitious for a juvenile. There was a period where I had to avoid all Billy Joel songs, for obvious reasons. Now it’s almost all I can listen to. I remember you standing in your custom-made kitchen singing I love you just the way you aaaaaaaaare! using a ladle for a microphone, and how you’d crack up when I rolled my eyes at you.
You never apologized for who you were, Dad. Ever. People like to tell me I’m a lot like you, which is a ridiculously awesome compliment, but I don’t think it’s completely true. You had every reason to despise life and curse it all away, but you didn’t. Maybe you felt that way at times, but you always told me I had a choice to accept the hard shit and turn it into fertilizer, or hide away and wallow. Unfortunately, wallowing is so much easier. I imagine what you would say to me if you knew some of the coping mechanisms I’d chosen. You’d tell me I’m better than that, and you’d be absolutely right. Because I’m your kid, dammit. I’m always your kid (“Even when I’m 93?!” “Yes Whipper Snipper, even when you’re 93”).
I try to be more creative with the ways I honor you and your memory. I wrote a letter to your surgeon thanking him for all he did to keep you with us for the last 13 years. I’m giving you the dedication page of my next novel – the one you told me was possible – all to yourself. I listen to the songs you loved and smile remembering what a goofball you were. I don’t know yet if parenthood is for me, but Josh said he’d be okay naming our son David. He’s not 100% on board with Davita if we have a girl, but I (hopefully) have another 5 years or so to get him to change his mind. I asked you once if you recommended this whole parenting thing, and you grinned in that impish way of yours and said “Sweetie, it’s the best.” You always did know best, so I’ll take your word for it (PS. I’m really pissed off I cannot discuss the finale of Parenthood with you. Like really really).
You should have been 59 today, Poppy. You should have had another 34 years with Mom. There are so many “Should haves” but I meant what I said in your office that one time: I’d rather have you as my Dad for 25 years than anyone else’s for a lifetime.
Missing you today and every day.
And just in case your feels haven’t been wrecked enough, see also: Lessons My Father Taught Me