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remembering my dad

philip joseph gallagher, my dadit’s hard to believe, but it’s been 27 years since my dad was killed. recently i was talking with a friend who had also lost her father many years ago and she said something to the effect of “it was a long time ago but it feels like it was yesterday.” that’s so true. that’s exactly what it feels like. that night and many of the details of the following days are burned into my memory. every year that passes takes away more and more of the pain, but, thankfully, not the memories.

but something is different this year. i don’t know if it’s the fact that i’m getting married in 12 days and it’s just another event my dad will miss; or if it’s the work i’ve been doing on myself over the last couple years; or maybe it’s the time passing or that i’m now 40 years old, but i’m finding that i’m reflecting on the past in a different way.

for the first time i find myself thinking of my dad not just as MY dad, but also as the person who WE lost. philip joseph gallagher wasn’t only my dad. he was also a husband, a son, a brother, an uncle, a brother-in-law, a son-in-law, a friend, a best friend, a mentor, a teacher, a neighbor. he was so many different people to so many different people. he was a genius and a troubled soul; a generous man with a wicked wit and an insatiable thirst for knowledge. i guess i remember him only as my dad because that’s who he was to me and i’ve never really asked anyone who knew him how they remember him.

maybe this year will be different. maybe in a couple weeks i can ask my family and friends about him. maybe i’ll try to read his book (provided i can find a dictionary for the dictionary that is needed just to get past the first page). but one thing that won’t change is just how much i miss him. he’ll forever be my dad, the wacky guy who told jokes in latin and taught me to “look it up” whenever i asked for help. i miss you, dad.