Parallel lives of two who never met

My father, Mel, had two dreams.

One was to establish a farm he could be proud of.

The other was to have a big family with lots of kids and eventually lots of grandchildren.

He married as a young man and the drive toward both dreams began immediately.

His little farm began to grow and his little house began to fill as the kids started to arrive.

My father had two sides to him. One side was very serious, hard working, dedicated and determined. The other side was crazy, fun-loving, wild and hilarious.

He had dark eyes and dark hair, he was lanky and long with a distinctive shaped nose.

I always thought there was no one on earth that looked quite like him.

***

My nephew, Jay, at birth, had two objectives – grow bigger than his one-pound, seven-ounce, 11-inch self . . . and quite frankly just stay alive.

Jay was born extremely premature on May 3, 2010, to my sister, Crystal, and her husband, Bryan.

The morning Jay came into the world, in that Omaha hospital, the doctors told Crystal and Bryan they were beginning the “hardest year of their lives” and there were no guarantees on how this situation was going to turn out.

Jay was tiny and fragile, yet he had the beginnings of dark hair and a distinctive shaped nose.

We all marveled that there was no baby on earth that looked quite like him.

***

My father, Mel, was surrounded by children and cows as he and Cheri navigated through life.

There were real struggles with money sometimes and there were triumphant milestones as they grew their dairy herd and built new milking facilities on the farm.

He never became the next Elvis as he secretly dreamed while playing his guitar and singing with his band . . . but he became a superstar in the eyes of us kids.

He was never rich or powerful . . . but we sure listened when he spoke.

He didn’t win awards or have a star in any walk of fame . . . but he sure cherished the 4-H trophies we brought home and the “World’s Best Dad” mugs we gave him on Father’s Day.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were witnessing greatness.

***

My nephew, Jay, was surrounded by nurses and doctors and all sorts of medical professionals for a good part of the start of his life.

There were real struggles as he worked to grow into a robust baby and his parents dealt with all the difficulties along that long and winding journey.

And there were triumphant milestones as he grew ounce by ounce, eventually pound by pound.

Jay, the doctors said, might have long-lasting issues . . . but his parents never wavered in their belief he would not only survive but thrive.

He may have been little . . . but he sure was mighty.

He may have not had the best start at life . . . but he eventually went home to join his family.

We maybe didn’t realize it every day at the time, but we were witnessing a miracle.

***

My father, Mel, left this world at a young age. He was only 37 years old when we lost him.

As a kid, I grieved our loss and wanted us to have a father.

As an adult, I’ve often thought about the fact he didn’t know any of his grandchildren or that he didn’t have an impact on their lives.

He never knew what they look like or who they are.

I have thought about them never having a bond with Grandpa Mel and him not leaving behind a legacy with them.

I have thought about all nine of them, including Jay, not knowing what he looked like.

***

My nephew, Jay, is now in elementary school.

He plays football . . . isn’t that amazing? He reads and plays and loves and laughs, just like all other kids.

He is lanky with dark hair and dark eyes and that distinctive shaped nose came to fruition.

He is sweet and affectionate and feisty and funny.

He is determined and talented and obviously full of fight.

He kind of reminds me of someone.

***

A week or so ago, an old friend from high school posted a photograph on social media. She had found the photo among many her father had taken decades ago – this one was of his friend, Mel, on his wedding day. We were so happy she shared the picture of my parents cutting the cake at their reception. None of us had seen this picture of our folks – taken when Dad was only 23 years old – in many, many years. I have to admit, I had forgotten the details of my father’s looks . . . it’s just been so long, you know?

Within minutes, my sisters started commenting and I chimed in as well . . . “Isn’t it incredible how much Dad looks like Jay?”

The likeness is astounding. We knew Dad in our earlier life and we know Jay in our current life. I often think of those phases as being completely separate experiences . . . and have never recognized the bond between those/these times and the people living in those/these eras.

Well, until now.

Putting their photos next to each other, we can physically see that Dad really is carrying on in all of us . . . all the way down to our littlest miracle.

And if Jay ever wonders what his Grandpa Mel looked like . . . all he has to do is look in the mirror.

 

W

 

 

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