About this time three years ago, I flew up to Dallas to spend the weekend cleaning out my grandparent’s house with my parents. This was not a fun trip. I was in no way looking forward to it, as I had grown up in that house. We spent 22 years celebrating birthdays, holidays and Sunday dinners in that house. My brother, cousin and I all tracked our height growing up on the cabinet door in the garage. I had always dreamed of one day owning that house, but now I couldn’t imagine being in it without them. But with the passing of both of my grandparents, we knew it was time to say goodbye. Little did I know that this would be the last time I would ever see my dad alive.

Things were a little strained between my father and I at the time. I grew up in a very small, but very close family. We had just lost my grandfather, and 10 months before that we lost my grandmother. And the emotional toll the death of two loved ones back to back can really knock you down. Looking back now, I truly believe that my dad and I were given that weekend together to clear the air and mend our relationship. Sadly, he would pass away unexpectedly four days later.

My dad was the youngest of three siblings and suffered many hardships throughout his life. He was run over by a car when he was a very young boy that broke both of his legs and he spent over a year in the hospital recovering. My grandfather — his father — was a Major in the US Army and he fought three tours in the Vietnam War, which kept him from his family for long periods of time. My uncle, his brother, passed away from a heart attack at the age of 40 in 2000. And in 2014, my dad was severely hurt in a work accident that would permanently disable him and prevent his ability to ever walk unassisted again.

When I returned home that Sunday evening, I had a refreshed feeling about my relationship with my father. I never expected the phone call that following Thursday, telling me that he was gone. The next few days were a blur; I just needed to get to my mom as soon as possible. The days, months and years since he passed, it still seems as if we’re a little lost. We keep his memory alive and continue some of his favorite traditions. I will always be thankful that my boys got to know him, and they will always remember their beloved “BB.”

I have rewritten this column over and over, trying not to be too “dark.” My father was a great man. He loved fiercely and would help anyone who needed it. In every family, there are good and bad times, and our good times together significantly outweighed the bad. He worked tirelessly to provide for my mother, brother and I to ensure that we had a great life. He worked six days a week, he was gone in the morning before we left for school, and didn’t get home until after we went to bed each night. He supported my mother when she decided to pursue her nursing degree when I was 9 years old. He would then go on to start his own businesses that allowed him to spend more time with his family.

There are little things that let me know he is still with me. Whether it’s a cardinal appearing in our yard or an ironic playlist of his favorite songs all at once on the radio, I like to think that he is smiling down on us from above. I miss my Dad every day; he was only 53 when we lost him. I catch myself dialing his number some times on my morning drive into work, as we did every day. He was the first man I ever loved, he was one of the biggest pains in the “you know what”, and he was my biggest fan. There will never be anyone else like him!

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