Friends and Family jennifer

December 23, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Goodbye to My Dad

In the last few minutes my dad became a retired man.  He had half of a day to work today, and then he was done.  After thirteen years of being a protestant chaplain at a maximum security prison he has just left those walls keeping so many in forever, never to return again.  But as he climbs into his vehicle and drives away he will not come back to our little town.  He will not stop at edge of our county.  He will not hesitate at the state line.  Because today he drives on and leaves not only his work, but his life here behind.

My dad is headed to Tennessee.  Joining my stepmother in her hometown.  He starts a life as a retiree in a warmer southern state.  The place that he has vacationed for over a decade now.  That has the bluegrass music that speaks to him.  The lower taxes and insurance rates that appeal to his frugal ways.  Where he will be one of the crowd in the vivid orange of the Tennessee Vols, instead of a bright spot amongst the winter New York landscape.  
My father is a pastor.  The Reverend Sir, as my college boyfriend would forever refer to him.  I live in this area not because of generations of family before me, as many of the locals here.  But because this is where my father was placed upon completing seminary.  He pastored a small country church for the better part of a decade.  Then he became a part time pastor while going to work for the state.  First as a probation officer and then moving over into family services in the prison system.  Thirteen years ago he was able to marry the two, state employment and ministry, when he became the protestant chaplain.  
He has loved the work.  He has found it challenging and yet rewarding.  He would update us on how services were going, stories of redemption and forgiveness.  Things that quite frankly challenged our own faith, those of us outside the prison walls.  Men who had done horrific things giving their lives for the Lord.  He was fiercely proud of his flock.  Learning to be fathers through letters and phone calls.  Learning to praise and worship.  His updates on their progress and how far they had come often included, in his trademark humor, that they were in fact a “captive audience” to his teachings.  But the inmates had to make the decision to come to the chapel, to ask him for counsel, to actively engage in the practice of faith.  And my father left proud of their growth.  I am proud of him.
Truthfully, though, the last few days have held lots of tears for me.  Never before has the physical distance between us been so great.  Thirteen grueling hours by car.  Many, many miles.  For most of my life my father has been within a few miles of me.  I will miss his profile against the chain link fence watching the boyz play little league.  The Halloween parade through town will not be the same without my dad standing on the first road throwing candy to the kids on the float.  Birthdays will be a smidgen less special without our token helium balloons he brings for each of us.  Camp each year will be missing a visitor and his recounting of memories from decades before.  And although red carnations will undoubtedly still arrive on Mother’s Day, I will miss his hand delivery.
So today life changes forever.  It is a division in time.  His life here with us because a Remember When or a We Used To.  He sets of on a new life.  Hopefully calmer.  Not likely quieter.  Us Stigliches are loud stock.  I wish him happiness.  
We will look forward to his biannual visits.  Our clan will learn to trek south for an occasional voyage.  He will learn to Skype.

Undoubtedly I will miss him.

Saying goodbye last night.

One Comment

  1. Must be tough. Stay strong. The times you will have together will be very special.

    Merry Christmas!

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