by Michael Holland    

Her name is Rita. Well, I guess I’m supposed to say her name was Rita.  Rita and I dated in college for about a year.  We had great times together, we were young, and for a while we were even in love.  We broke up in March of 1981.

On June 6, 1981, Rita died in a car accident along with another friend from college.  I was bewildered at the magnitude of loss; the seemingly unending video loops that played out in my head.  I wasn’t prepared at all for dealing with such tragedy in life.

In the fog of 30-plus years, I’ve lost some of the details of how my family supported me during that time.  My parents were divorced at that point and I rarely saw my dad, and my mom worked 7 days a week as she had for years. I really want to remember what my dad said to me in the weeks and months after Rita’s death, but that sheet of paper is completely blank.  It’s almost as if I didn’t see or talk with him for that whole summer.

Maybe we did see each other.  Maybe he said some words of comfort and wisdom to me.  He was a good and compassionate man, so he must have.  I just can’t remember, and though I know some of the pain I feel may be misplaced, it still frustrates me.

I’m a father of three, and it’s strange to think about all the conversations I’ve had with my kids over time.  I’ve been blessed to have a wonderful wife and marriage, which has enabled me to be active in my kids’ lives. As a result, we’ve had a lot of conversations (many more than my kids want, I’m sure).The strange thing is, I wonder what they will remember later in life about our conversations.  Will they have content from our conversations that will help them as parents?

As fathers, husbands, and men of this world, maybe the real key to our lives is to be present in the moment with those we love.  We can’t control what will be remembered from our interactions, but we can control that we are in the picture.