Chris E. Hayner

Writer. Jerk. Neat dude.

Dad.

It was going to be a relaxed fourth of July weekend coming up for me. I was heading up home, to Stockton, to spend time with family and do a whole lot of nothing. That’s all out the window now.

Last night I got a call from my mom telling me she had some bad news. I could tell by her voice it was really bad, but I didn’t expect her to tell me my dad was dead. Now, not even 12 hours later, it still hasn’t hit me. It doesn’t really make sense.

Because of all the things I associate with Dan Hayner, dead isn’t one of him. I made a joke to my mom one time a few years ago that when the world came to an end, all that would be left were the cockroaches and Dan Hayner. He was just that tough.

He wasn’t though and all it took was a terrible decision for all of that to go away.

As some of you may or may not know, there was a forest fire last year that burned up a huge chunk of Northern California, including my dad’s house and most of his belongings. Looking back on it in hindsight, he was never really the same after that.

He seemed scared and lost in ways I’d never really seen before. That fire shook him. It also caused an uptick in his drinking that became more and more obvious with each visit up north.

He was always a drinker, but over the last few visits it seemed to have more of a grip on him than he did it. That’s why it’s horrifying but not earth-shatteringly surprising that it played a role in his end. And that fucking hurts to think about.

And it’s not the only thing.

As I was trying to sleep at about 2 a.m. this morning, it dawned on me that if I am ever lucky enough to have children, they’ll never get to meet their Grandpa Danny. He never got to be a Grandpa and I think that’s something he would have been really good at. I also never got to live out a life goal I told my brother about once of riding motorcycles with him.

It’s the weird little stuff like that that’s haunting me right now, a million different things that are ringing through my head as I realize the next time I come to town he won’t be there to say “How have you been, boy?” with a goofy smile on his face.

That’s the stuff I don’t want to think about.

Instead I want to remember the weird, good stuff. Our relationship was strained during a chunk of my teenage years, but we came out on the other side as friends in a way I didn’t expect us to. We had a number of long, good, silly talks over the years that I wouldn’t trade for anything. They’d range from what was happening in my life to motorcycles to movies to, really, anything.

It was in those talks that I realized we had very similar personalities sometimes. Very quirky senses of humor that would have us laughing about the stupidest thing for way too long.

That’s the stuff I want to remember. And memories like sitting with him on the patio on my Aunt Cheryl and Uncle Pete’s cabin in Wisconsin, just basking in how perfectly quiet that place was. He told me once it was the kind of place he’d love to live.

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Likely for the same reason he chose to live most of his life in the mountains. He hated cities and all the noise and people that came with them. I don’t blame him.

To be honest, I don’t even know where to go with this. Worlds are failing me. I just really miss my dad.

5 Comments

  1. Very nice words, Chris.

  2. Chris, I’m so sorry that you lost your dad. As you (probably?) know, I lost my dad earlier this year. I am still in shock, but I can say that, from my experience, it does lessen. That shock in those early days and weeks was one of the worst parts, which I never thought would be the case in my theoretical imaginings of what it would be like to suffer an unfathomable loss. I remember feeling like I was living in some surreal nightmare and not being able to get out of it or gain my bearings. I still feel like that sometimes, but it has gotten a bit better. If you want to talk, let me know. This sucks so much.

  3. Missing your dad will get easier over time but unfortunately no time real soon. My dad died suddenly also almost 8 years ago and my days keep moving forward but everyday I think if and miss my dad just like the day we lost him. Cherish those memories you have. We love you and David and our hugs and prayers will be with you for a long time. Love you guys.❤️❤️

  4. Your dad raised an equally strong son. Your ability to articulate these thoughts in this tough time is impressive. My best wishes go out to you and your family.

  5. Hi Chris,
    My sincerest condolences. Your dad and I were good friends back in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s in Stockton. He was like a big brother to me during a crazy period of my youth. Know that he is in a better place.

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