His given name was Lloyd Oliver Willis. People called him Gitsy, Lloydie, and Lloyd – but I had the great honor of being the only person in the world to call him “Dad.”
I’m the reason for the last 44 years he’s had to add a “Senior” to his name. Because I’m Lloyd Oliver Willis Jr.
Even now, I can still feel the way his big hand gently held my little hand when I was a toddler. And I also remember the way it felt when he hugged me the last time I saw him, when I was now the bigger one.
I cannot lie: It is very hard to believe that I have lost my father, and my mother Paulette, who left us six years ago. Every day I think about both of them and I can hear them both telling me that they love me. I was extremely lucky to have parents who both openly expressed their love for me.
Whether I like it or not – and I like it – my Dad lives on in me. For many years when we didn’t see each other, I had family members who would tell me that I laugh like him, walk like him, and sometimes even smile like him. Not that big of a smile, of course.
Until a friend noted it to me, I didn’t realize that my decision to become a writer is also linked to Dad. I write about politics, and he wrote music. He lives in me, even if the notes are slightly different.
On his birthday on September of this year, I thought about how our relationship had evolved and that in the last decade we have grown closer.
On the day that Dad died, he and I had never been closer. And I am beyond grateful for that.
Dad was not a big talker and when we spoke on the phone the truth is I did most of the talking. I got my chatty ways from my mom, not him. But in his own unique Lloyd Willis style, I would get him to talk. We talked about football, American football, cricket – which I will never understand – and politics. He would call me to see how my health was and I would call him to do the same, even though no matter what he always said he was “okay.”
The last time we spoke, just two days before he passed away, as we hung up I said “love you.” I’ve learned that people need to say it out loud to each other, even if you know it in your heart and it might feel funny to actually say it.
Dad used to just say “ok” in response, which I knew was his way of saying it back to me. Then after that he would say “you too,” which was progress. But in the last few years, Dad would respond, “love you too son.”
Those were his last words to me ever. “Love you too son.”
Dad I love you always. And I will hold onto that forever.