He's gone. From the veranda, but not our hearts. I miss him so much. But the veranda is comforting. He loved it out here. Overlooking the brick terrace and what's left of the moat.
It's not a real moat, mind you. It's a retention pond that runs in front of the house. But since you have to cross a bridge that spans the retention pond in order to get to the front door, he called it a moat. So a moat it is. Because he said so.
He did that a lot. Called things by names he preferred. He didn't like other people's rules. He made up his own. He was strong willed and fearless. Cut his own path. Did things his way. Never took no for an answer. I want to be like him in those ways.
But most of all, I want to love my family like he loved us. Full out. All in. 110%. He knew how to be a family man. He knew how to love us. Perfectly. And I loved him for it.
We're a big immediate family, us Langfords. I have 4 siblings. 3 sisters-in-law. 8 nieces and nephews. 2 grandparents. 2 aunts. 3 uncles. 5 cousins. That's a lot of immediate.
Especially in one house. At the same time.
And we all love to talk. LOUDLY. But when you're competing against 3 dozen or so people, you've got to speak up. And we do. Shyness isn't a family trait.
These last 2 days have been gut-wrenching. We're all stunned and incredibly sad. But there are things to do. Arrangements to be arranged, decisions to be decided upon, lists to keep track of, phones to answer and people to hug.
And there's a lot of activity. People are whirling. And bumping into one another. And talking over each other. The house is busting at the seams. It's thumping with energy. And grief. And laughter.
We tell the same stories. Over and over and over again. "Remember that time..."? And we cut each other off with eyes rolling and finish the sentence with "when we..." or "when Dad...". And then we all laugh like we've just heard the story for the first time. Because it's still funny.
And will be again in about 3 hours when we retell it. That's what we do.
And we look at the 1.5 million pictures our dad stockpiled. The man never threw anything away. Ever.
I really wish he had. Some of my past looks are quite unfortunate. I'd rather not relive them.
But I thank God for those pictures. Bad hair and all. And the stories that never get old. And the incessant teasing we do of each other. For the house busting at the seams. And the energy. And the deafening noise. For the stress that comes with planning a memorial for your dad. One that you want to be perfect because you only have one shot. And you don't want to miss something, regret anything.
Because he wouldn't. He'd know exactly what to do. Because he would do what he wanted and it would be perfect.
Because he said so.