Friday, August 2, 2013

The older I get, the more I need my Dad

I can’t explain to you what it is like to lose a parent unexpectedly at 14.  I don’t imagine it is any easier when you’re older, but looking back I can’t help but be envious of people who just had a little bit more time that I wasn't allowed.  I can only imagine people who were given even less time than that feels the same way about me and the time I was given.  

When I was a teenager and I would talk about it with people, I could express my sorrow about all of the things I wouldn't have my father around for.  After he died, I quit singing in the choir at school because when I was up there and looking at the crowd his proud, beaming face wasn't out there and it crushed me every time I had to go up there and sing for the remainder of the semester.  I knew at 14 that life would be forever missing a piece; that he wouldn't be there for all of those things silly little girls deem to be the most important events of their lives like graduation, or their wedding day.  Of course I have a mental list of all of life’s big events that he would be missing, not just in my life but in the life of my sister and brother.  I know my nephew would never know the joys of having a Grandpa like the kind my father would have been.

What I didn't anticipate were the little things I’d need my Dad for.  Those moments in everyday life that don’t count as “Events” where you need the guidance, direction, or intervention of your parent.  I realize now that that I wanted my father for that first heartbreak and every single one after, those moments when I've been at a crossroads needing direction, times when I needed someone who loves me no matter what because life is a hot mess and in all of it I feel like I've forgotten who I am, or when I've been less than the person I know I am or ought to be.  Not to say that my mother doesn't do her share of those things, but I know that there are times and situations she wishes my Dad were here for too.

Truth be told, I don’t really think anyone really knows their parents as a person until later in life.  That might be the worst part for me.  I can’t sit down and think “What would my Dad do?” and have any kind of an idea.  When you’re growing up, you love your parents unconditionally.  They are your providers, your teachers, and your protectors.  As a teenager, you think you know everything and your parents are the enemy that doesn't understand.  As an adult, you realize (if you were blessed with good people as parents) they are your greatest resource.  In any given situation, I have no idea what he would have said or done.  I still have memories of him, but truth be told I don't feel I ever really knew him as a person, and I think I'm losing what things I did know about him as my parent as time passes.

I’m not so delusional that I think my Dad would have had the right answer and fixed it all for me.  No one can magically fix anything.  But I know there are situations I've been in since his death that I know he would have stepped in and it would have been done and over with a lot faster, and there are things that might not have ever happened.  I don’t think he would have always had the best or the right advice, but he would have stepped in where he needed to and he might have even said something along the way that would have helped. 

Sometimes I look for a sign or an answer to the questions I have.  I've gone out to the cemetery, gotten down on my knees and poured out my troubles and asked for help.  Whether or not I receive that help is debatable.  Things tend to resolve themselves, whether it is the nature of things to come around or some kind of other intervention I don't know.  

Every year on my Father's birthday, and the anniversary of his death, I try to post something thoughtful about him.  I try to share a story about his ridiculous dancing or the fact that he didn't seem to realize that all cartoons aren't made for children.  I tell people that my dad wasn't entirely opposed to rap and I can remember his laughter at hearing Eminem's "My name Is" for the first time.  The one thing I try to tell people every year is the one thing I know and have when I think about my dad: my dad loved his children more than anything and was proud of us for every single thing we ever did. My dad saved every single certificate of participation in from our sports teams and events, the cheap ribbons we won running track, the team photos, and the "Graduation" certifications...and he framed them.  I still have all of mine, still in the frames, in the storage room in my apartment.  When I see them, I cry because he was so proud when we got them and they seemed, and still seem, so trivial to me even now. I have no idea what he would tell me to do in any situation, what lessons he would give me about life or what direction he would guide me in when I need it.  I've found myself needing to make decisions lately and I miss him because I would know that he would have something to give me, some small piece of wisdom, and I am heartsick every time I wish he were here to help me.  But the small consolation I have is that I know he would have been proud of me.  

And I will leave you with this advice I learned from my experience and from my Father and the man he was: Hug your children.  Treat all of their events, achievements and small things like big things, because when you are small the small things seem a lot bigger.  Try to find a way to leave your children with a piece of you whether it be some wisdom, some kind of thought, some small special trinket...I wish I could find something with my Father's handwriting on it.  Take lots of pictures.  Take video if you can.  Sing to them before bedtime.  Tell them silly stories from your childhood.  Share the music that you love with them because when you are gone, it will comfort them. If you can't leave your children with some wisdom about life, some guidance or some kind of cure-all magic spell, at least leave them with the knowledge that you are proud of everything they've done and will do and that you loved them. 

This was my Father's favorite Fleetwood Mac song, and it is the version I grew up with and love. 

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful...I'm so sorry for your loss. And as trite as it sounds, your dad would be so proud of the strong, amazing woman you've become.