To The Greatest Man I Ever Knew

Dear Dad,

It’s been almost three months since you passed. I still don’t understand why you had to go when you did. And I don’t think I ever will. Your passing has left me with a lot that I wished I’d said, but I’ll never get the chance to actually say it to you. I know you’ll never read this, but I hope this will suffice.

One of the first memories that got stuck in my head days after your passing was the first time I remember winning an argument with you. It was sometime around December 2011. You, myself, my brother, and one other person who I can’t quite remember were on our way to an old resale shop. I found out they had PS2 games, and you told me I could pick one out but “please, pick anything but a sports game.” I agreed, picking the first RAW vs. Smackdown! game that was made. You tried shooting this down, but eventually, you admitted that this technically wasn’t a sports game and you bought it for me.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, that was when my love for professional wrestling started. You told me about how you and Uncle Matt used to love it as a kid, but you fell out with it. I’d tell you about everything that happened in my game, from some storyline in the season mode to asking about some wrestler with a weird name. It didn’t matter what it was about, you always ended up just listening to me and answering everything. Eventually, I think my interest in it all pulled you back in. Honestly, in the end, I think you may have loved it all more than me. You came into my room literally hours before you passed to talk about some Danhausen clip you’d seen that you really loved.

I think pro wrestling, in a way, really helped us bond. Our relationship was not the best for a long time. We fought often, and it wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t until it was 14 that our relationship began to turn around. And the biggest thing for me was that it felt like you actually listened to me instead of just going into “I’m Dad, do as I say” mode. We reached an understanding. And I’m so thankful for that.

I’m trying to get back into school. I may have to transfer, but I’m going to go for my degree. I know you’d appreciate that. It doesn’t feel right though if I’m honest. I wanted what I did to help you out. You deserved that and so much more. And I don’t know how I’m supposed to help you out, or what I’m going to do with the fruits of my own labor. But I need to get that degree. I just wish you’d have been there to see me walk across that stage in the Orena.

I want you to know that I wasn’t alone that night. My heart was racing. I felt sick, but I was okay. Mrs. Leslie and her husband were there with me that night. I’m so thankful they drove all that way, just to be with me. They didn’t have to do that, but they did. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay them or properly thank them, but I’ll always be grateful that I met them, and that they were there for me that night.

I also had my Boys Club with me. Kaleb called while at a party. Brian called while he was at work. Ryan called. Elsio couldn’t call, but was one of the first people to respond when I panicked and messaged the chat. They were there for me that night. Hell, Ryan and Kaleb were up with me until 5:30 am that night just talking with me. They let me vent in that chat when I needed it, it didn’t matter what time it was. You probably thought of them as my internet buddies, but they’re friends for life.

I talked with Matt, Katie, and Amanda, cried on the phone with Brandi, and cried in front of an entire church full of people who made the trip specifically to pay their respects to you. You don't know how many people loved you, man. I don’t think you know how much you meant to other people. A friend of yours told me you felt like you were alone those last few weeks of your life. I’m sorry you felt like you were alone, but understand that you weren’t. People loved you, Dad. They really, truly did.

Remember that trip I told you about with Brian? We did it. We fucking did that shit man. We went to two Red Wings games instead of one. The Wings lost both of them, 9–2 and then 6–5 in a shootout. I can picture you calling me after the Coyotes game, asking me and Brian how we could even sit through that. You would’ve loved the videos I took on Star Wars Night for the second game against the Wild.

I’m staying with Amy and Greg now. They loved you like family man. I can’t even begin to describe how much they’ve helped me since you passed. I know you felt like maybe they didn’t care at times, but they loved you. They helped get me to your service, they’ve helped with getting back into school, and they’ve given me a place to say and time to process everything. I wouldn’t be okay if it wasn’t for them.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Katie is expecting. I know you would’ve been over the moon at that news. It sucks my future kids won’t get to meet their grandfather. You were so good with kids. Amy still has the pictures of you and Charleigh painting that room. She tells me the story of you buying her that Frozen foldout chair. It’s one of her favorite stories to tell.

There’s one more thing I want you to know before I end this letter. Debbie told me that you were afraid, those last few days before you went. You said you had to be here for me, and that you needed to see me graduate. I just want you to know that I will be okay. You don’t have to be afraid. I’ll be okay. I don’t know when that day will come. I don’t know when it’ll bit me that I’ll actually be okay, but I know it’ll come.

You know I’m not religious, but I know you’re out there watching me. You’ll still get to make sure I’m okay. You’ll still get to see me grab that degree of mine. You’ll have a front-row seat as I make something of myself in this world. Maybe it wasn’t how either of us thought it’d play out, but you can still witness those moments. I hope I make you proud.

To the greatest man I’ve ever known: thank you. I love you. And I hope I’ll see you again someday.

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I am pursuing a bachelor's in communication, and am using this blog to write about an array of topics such as sports and video games.

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Tristin McKinstry

I am pursuing a bachelor's in communication, and am using this blog to write about an array of topics such as sports and video games.