I can't believe it's been four years since you've left us. On one hand it seems like it was just yesterday that we were with you, when I felt your warm big-daddy hug, smelled your Old Spice cologne, and saw your twinkling blue eyes. On the other hand, it feels like a lifetime ago - because so much has happened.
Anna has grown into such a strong-willed and determined little girl (I wonder where she gets that from?) She is such a joy, such a trier of my patience, and daily I think of you and mom and how you two ever managed to get past my back-talking tendencies and sassy behaviour. When I'm at my wits ends with her I look up to the sky and think 'okay Dad, I get it, enough already.'
She is such a sweetheart though, and so smart and artistic and - well, Daddy, she is growing up to be what I know would have been the apple of your eye.
She was in her first big ballet recital this past spring. She was amazing. Do you remember the card you sent me - the year you and mom separated and I went to spend the better part of the summer in Redwood City with Nonni? The card with the little ballerinas on it? I still have it (I saved it along with most all of the other cards and notes you sent me over the years) and recently came across it. It not only reminded me of myself and those tedious years I spent in ballet - but also of my daughter. It's a weird paradigm to be in - clearly remembering my days as a little dancer, while seeing my daughter take the same footsteps (no pun intended.)
You never got to meet James, but oh, how much fun you would have had with him. Of the three kids, he is the most musically inclined. If ever there is music playing near him (and sometimes when there is no music around at all) he will stop everything to dance and bee-bop and shake his little behind. He loves all kinds and types of music - and I can just see him not only playing a musical instrument as he grow up, but excelling at it. He has a mischievous little smile/smirk that tends to soften the hearts of those around him (mine included) when he knows he's in trouble. He's loud - of that you can be sure - and energetic - and we're working to try to figure out how to channel that.
He's also my little helper - wherever I am, he wants to help - even in the kitchen. This past Sunday he was the first helper to join me in the kitchen to bake a cake. He couldn't wait to push his chair up to the counter and get his little fingers into the mixing bowls (not only to taste the sweet treats but to stir and mix and blend.) I know you would have loved to be a part of that - and to have him 'help' you as you cooked those wonderful family meals.
Jack is our sweet baby - who is just starting to come into his own personality. He looks the most like you. I pulled out the old family albums the other day (the ones that go back from when Grandma Bernice was a little girl through your childhood.) It is surprising how much Jack favors you - especially when he smiles his wide, happy, easy smile. So far he has your eyes - clear and twinkling blue. I hope that they will stay blue - if for no other reason then it reminds me so much of you.
There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of you. I miss you so much. I want so badly to pick up the phone and talk to you - to share with you the crazy life I lead as a mother of three - to ask your advice on recipes or menu planning - to hear your wonderful laughter. I want to snuggle with you on the couch - to put my head on your shoulder, to feel your scratchy moustache when you kiss my cheek good-night, to feel that all out comfort of knowing that I really don't have to worry about anything - because Daddy is there to take care of it. I suppose that is one reason why losing you (a parent) is so difficult. It makes me have to be the grown-up, to be the parent myself.
You were a great man Dad. You had a strong work ethic, you loved to laugh, you had more friends than I can ever hope to have - the kind of friend that would do anything for you. That speaks volumes.
I hope you know your legacy lives on (and I for one have done my part to continue the Hein family lineage). I'm doing my best to remember you and honor you and make you as much a part of my children's lives as I possibly can.
I suppose there's not a whole lot else I can say, except I love you. And I miss you.