Daddy’s little girl. I used to be one of those. I remember spending time with him and him spoiling me rotten every time we were there: picking out bunk beds, getting a TV VCR combo hung in our bedroom, playing board game after board game, delicious dinners at LoneStar and Red Lobster where he would spend our entire dinner cracking crab legs for me and Theresa. I remember the Wednesday night visits being cut out of the routine, followed by every other weekend being cut. Eventually the visits stopped altogether. I was young and I’m sure I don’t know all the details nor do I remember exactly how everything played out. I do know, that in time, his alcohol abuse made it unsafe for my sister and I to continue staying at his house. I don’t remember this bothering me much until later. I think it took a while for me to realize that we weren’t actually going to see him again.
It was probably in high school when I started spending a lot of time with friends in their homes, that I saw what a relationship with my dad could have been like. I know that he would have been at all of my dance performances obnoxiously in the front row, he would have bragged about me to his friends, hugged me when I was sad, and told me he was proud of me when I was feeling defeated. I always bonded with my friends’ dads and they always looked out for me, naturally. I still remember the graduation card that I got from my then best friend’s parents. There was a long, heart-felt note written in it and I could almost hear my dad’s voice reading it to me.
Shortly after I graduated high school is when my dad committed suicide. Although I went to the hospital several months before he died to see him in rehab as he recovered from his previous attempt, I just felt like I would have another chance. I wanted to reestablish a relationship that would follow me through my wedding preparations and raising my babies. I wanted to see him turn into a grandfather. We never got that chance. Not long after he was released from the hospital, he was gone forever.
There was a black cloud hanging over the whole wedding planning process. My dad was supposed to be there. I was getting married too young to not have my daddy there. I had the knight in shining armor – the man of my dreams, I had the huge princess gown, I had all my friends there, I had all the pink, bows, and bling a girl could ask for. But something was missing. The next most important person is the father of the bride, and he was trapped in a personalized 5×7 picture frame next to my great grandma and Chad’s grandpa between some candles on the memorial table.
I still have feelings of envy creep up every now and then when I see and hear of my now adult friends talking about their dads. The girls’ questions catch me off guard every single day, but I’m so glad we can talk about him. They know what he looks like and what we liked to do together. They know his name and that he loved me. They know that the reason I buy kiwi all summer long is because one of the fondest memories I have at my dad’s house is sitting in his recliner eating kiwi together. They recently asked if he watched us and if he knew who they were. I assured them that he did and that he was proud of them.
Father’s Day naturally unburies the buried feelings. There’s a void in my heart all day every day, but Father’s Day, his death date, his birthday, ya know, all those important days, that void is so strong. And it’s ok. I’m done feeling embarrassed about how I feel. I’m done pretending like I’m not grieving or that my grief in my situation is not as warranted as someone else’s grief in a different situation.
There is a silver lining…
When I married Chad, I was blessed beyond belief with the world’s BEST father-in-law. He has been there for me since day one. He raised four sons and he frequently refers to me as the daughter he never had (and boy, do I have him wrapped around my finger). He has met me at the Children’s Museum to jumpstart my dead van, he’s had a 45 minute phone conversation with me giving me step by step directions to getting out of the rough neighborhood I ended up in on accident. He came to my house to check it out when I got home to an open front door. He gives me the best hugs and tells me he’s proud of me. He’s one of the few people that can tell something is wrong with me and he manages to pull it out of me when I don’t want him to. I can cry on his shoulder without being embarrassed. He takes the girls for hours sometimes so I can do something alone. He buys me pedicures. We even have our own secret code where we can read each other’s minds across a loud, crowded room. He is a fantastic Pappy to the girls (who also have him tightly wrapped around their fingers). He treats Chad’s mom with respect and has shown his sons how to treat their wives. He literally was sent to me by God and he fills about 99% of that void.
So, maybe you, too, are sitting here on Father’s Day feeling that void, knowing that something is missing. Find whatever it is that makes you feel a little bit better about it and do it, do lots of it today. Maybe it’s crying, maybe it’s eating your dad’s favorite fruit, maybe it’s visiting the cemetery or taking a swig of his favorite whiskey. Maybe you go on about your day and don’t acknowledge that it’s Father’s Day at all. Whatever it is, you do you. Don’t let someone make you feel bad about your feelings. Own your feelings. Feel your feelings. And eventually, put your big girl panties back on, and go make that daddy of yours proud!
Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful fathers, grandfathers, and single moms who have to play daddy!
Until next time…
“Dad – your life was a blessing, your memory a treasure…You are loved beyond words, and missed beyond measure.”