A Father Dies, A Father is Born

Still here in Tulsa at Grady Walker’s house with my son (also Grady). Usually when we come up here to visit, we stay in the guest bedroom by the kitchen. As fate would have it, another guest is staying in that room, so little Grady and I are sleeping in the large bed in the basement apartment.

The last time I slept in this bed was almost ten years ago, the night I received a phone call telling me my father had passed away. It was two weeks after my college graduation, and four days after my 23rd birthday. Grady Walker came out to my apartment, picked me up and brought me here. I was grateful for his company.

I’ve heard it said that you become a man the day your father dies. There is some truth to that, but it doesn’t happen instantly. The first night after your father dies – no matter how old you are – you’re a little boy, alone and uncertain in the void that was your father’s world.

I cried my young 23-year-old eyes to sleep that night, in this very bed. But ten years later, as I type this tonight, my own little boy is sleeping peacefully beside me, blissfully unaware of how fragile and temporary our time together in this world can be.

I still miss my father, and often feel like I missed out on some time with him (he was 48 when he died). But what I’m feeling right at this moment is how much I love being a father. How much I love my son, and sharing with him so many of the things my father *did* have the time to share with me. This bed, this night, are reminders of things I couldn’t possibly have known ten years ago: Life goes on. It repeats itself, even. Sometimes love is something you cant pay back, so you pay it forward.

Goodnight Grady Jeremiah Locke.

Goodnight Michael William Locke.

Sweet dreams.

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5 Responses to A Father Dies, A Father is Born

  1. Jeff Locke says:

    Thanks Neal for sharing that.

  2. Neal that was beautiful! I too can relate as I lost my mother at age 25 when she was only 49. I miss her and I feel I lost precious time her too. That pain never goes away, I think we just learn how to live without them!

  3. Chris says:

    Beautiful post Neal.

    I also lost my dad, at 22. My dad had cancer and it was my responsibility to take him back to the country of his birth during his last few days.
    I vividly recall at one point, on the plane, my dad sitting to my left and an new mom playing with her little one in her lap on my right. I recall the 2 of them catching each others gaze for a moment with a look I really can’t describe.
    You’re wise to cherish and soak up as much of this time as you can.

  4. Julie the ex-Pape, Jensen says:

    Wow Neal, What a great site you have. I really enjoyed reading about your father and seeing your cute kids. You look totally different than the politician-nerd type I remember you being in college! ha ha! I’ve told my kids about your turtle wandering the campus with the balloon on his back. Hilarious. Well, I wish God’s best in all you do! I’m glad you are blessed and living life fully! Probably won’t see you til the forevorlands, so, until then, have a beautiful life! (Oh, and I liked your songs, too…wow, you are a renaissance man!) 🙂 Julie (Pape) Jensen

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