Wednesday December 20, 2006 5:57 am
The Loss of a Hero: Goodbye Dad
Today the world truly lost one of it’s greatest assets when my father, George Budabin, succumbed to lung cancer and passed away. There is so much for me to say about this man, and there is no way that it can all be said.
George Budabin and his wife Kathy McQuown (known to me affectionately as Dad and Mom) adopted me when I was 16 years old. Having lived a life that, up to that point, felt very short on love and trust thanks to 12 years in the New York City foster care system, I had no idea what love in a stable and permanent home even meant. The issues that I had with just learning to trust that my parents loved me like they said they did were deep. Not that I didn’t believe them, but rather, I frankly didn’t understand it. It was a foreign concept to me.
Particularly difficult for me was the whole notion of having a loving father. I had never known my birth father, nor had I developed any sort of paternal bond with any of the male foster parents I had come across during my life. Here was a man trying to get me to understand that he was the real deal - admittedly, this would prove to be a difficult task for him, as I spent a couple of my teenage years trying to push him away. In retrospect, I think I was putting him to the test, trying to see what it would take for him to “send me back” saying he no longer wanted me. It happened many times in my life, and there had to be a breaking point where my new parents would do the same. Of course, that never came.
My parents loved me and my brother (who they adopted together) like their very own. They had four children of their own already, but from the day that they took us in, they made us theirs. There was absolutely never any separation of “our kids vs. the adopted ones.” We were just “theirs.”
My Dad has left an impression on me that will stay with me until the day that I die. He taught me what being a man was really about. He was the ultimate stand-up guy who you could trust to do anything he said he would do. He was loving, caring, and affectionate towards his children. He was a provider in every sense of the word. There were days when he would leave for work at 6:30 AM and not get home until 9:00 PM, exhausted. Still, he would eat his dinner, and spend whatever time he had left with his children and wife until he went to bed, rarely just getting time to himself.
In more recent years, as I have grown into an adult, I really began to appreciate the man that he was. Always excited to just hear my voice and to hear about how things in my life were going since I had moved from New York City to Seattle, WA. I could always count on him for solid advice about life, love, and business.
The bond that I think will be strongest between him and I, though, is the one we shared as fathers. When Alijah was born and he became a grandfather, I could tell he was just ecstatic. I couldn’t wait until I could place his new grandson into his arms, which would happen a few months later.
The thing is, by having a son of my own, things all started to come into perspective for me, and I could truly see where my Dad was coming from. Of course he loved me. In the same way that I love my son to death. The kind of love that is simply unmistakable, unshakeable, and unquestionable. By the same token, I now get what parents truly mean when they tell their child that they are proud of them. When I watch Alijah do something new that he has never done before, or just experience the character that he is with an amazingly advanced sense of humor, I am just proud. Heck - I was proud of him before he started doing ANYTHING because of how hard he had to fight to stay alive when he was born at 1 lb. 13 ounces and lived the first two months of his life in Intensive Care.
When I spoke to my Dad the night before his passing, he had three things to tell me before he died. As he said them to me, it was as if I knew what all three would be before he even said them, because I quickly and involuntarily pictured myself in his position, with me saying three things to my son.
The fact that he first wanted to tell me that he was proud of me touched me in a way that I won’t soon forget. He was telling me that he got the same amount of joy from being my father that I get from Alijah. That is when it clicked, and it’s something that you can’t truly understand from a parent until you have a child of your own. This man got joy simply out of having a relationship with me, despite everything I had tried to do to sabotage it early on as a troubled teen. When he looked at me or thought of me, it was with happiness. When I was away, he missed me. When I was near, he didn’t want me to go. All of these things he didn’t have to say verbally, because through my connection to my son, I understand it all. If I was even 10% to him of what Alijah is to me, I am truly happy to have given him that much joy in his life.
The second thing he wanted to say was that he wanted to thank me for loving him, and allowing him to love me. That is such a significant statement, because it really does mean something in our relationship. My Dad knew the trust issues I had growing up and coming into a relationship with him in particular, as men have never really done me any good in my life. He knew how difficult it was both for me to love him, and for me to allow myself to be loved without having that guard up. To be truthful, loving him was easy, even early on. The hard part was letting him into the walls that I built up around me. Don’t get me wrong, they were necessary up until that point in my life. I would not have survived without sheltering myself. However, when I was finally safe with my new family, it took a couple of years to finally accept that as the case. My Dad never stopped trying to prove his worthiness to me. Time and time and time again, he was there showing me in all sorts of ways that he truly did care about me. Over time, I did allow him to love me as I loved him, and I know that made him so much happier to see that I accepted that.
Lastly, he wanted to thank me for Alijah, his grandson. When he said that, it took everything I had to not break down while sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to New York so that I could be by his side. You see, family meant everything to my Dad. Him thanking me for Alijah means more than it seems it does at first glance. Yes, he was thanking me for the fact that I had given him his first grandchild, no doubt. Deeper than that though, is the fact that he was thanking me for the relationship he was able to build with the only grandchild he will ever know. It was very important to me that Alijah got to know my father before he passed away, and after I found out he had cancer, there were two periods of time where my Dad and Alijah were able to enjoy each others time. They fell in love with each other in a way that was so beautiful for me to watch. When I brought Alijah to NYC to visit his grandfather (or, “Ta-pa” as Alijah would call him for whatever reason) it literally took him less than ten minutes to become attached to my Dad. A couple of months ago, my parents came out to visit me in Seattle, and again, Alijah was attached to my father constantly. It was just amazing for me to see that. That would also be the last time I would speak to my father face-to-face, as by the time I got back to NYC, he had already been put on the respirator, and was unconscious.
Even deeper still, though, is that when my Dad thanked me for Alijah, he was thanking me for being the father that I was to Alijah. He was telling me that I had done well in his eyes with raising his only (up to this point) grandchild, and that means the world to me. If I can be just a fraction of the father that my Dad was, I will have been a success.
Leave it to my father to think of a way to say so much to me in three little sentences. He was weak and couldn’t say much, and yet, he did. In response, I was only able to say a couple of things back before he had to go, as breathing was becoming difficult for him. I told him that despite all we had been through, there was only one thing that I could thank him for - my life. Without this man, I have no idea what kind of person I would be today. What I do know is that I would not be anywhere near as successful in life, anywhere near as loving or accepting of love, or anywhere near as happy. This man took what was a broken, frightened boy and turned him into a man he could be proud of through unending love, patience, kindness, and a will to see me thrive. As I sit here trying (and failing) to hold back the tears, I can be nothing but thankful.
Daddy, you were the man in my life. You were a class act all around. I promise that I will try to uphold the standards you had, and will always try to think of the things you would say to me when making an important decision. I also promise that I will do everything in my power to make sure that your grandson, Alijah, remembers who you are. As he grows, I will ensure that he, along with any other children I may be blessed enough to have in the future, knows what an amazing grandfather he had - both by verbally telling them of you, and by showing them by trying to be the father that you were to me. You saved me, and you were my hero. I love you dearly.
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- andru edwards, dad, death, family, george budabin, heroes, loss, parenting, sidefeatured
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