Revisiting old memories unearths feelings you are not always ready to confront. On a recent trip home to Texas, I uncovered some old albums that featured snapshots of my father. In this particular picture, I am two months old, on my belly, huddled next to my father. When I looked at the photograph, I smiled, chuckling at the full head of hair on both of us. When I lift my head up to take a second glance, I noticed the grins on our faces. I look happy, I thought. So does he.
As I write this post, my emotions are stretching for some direction. This will be the sixth Father’s Day that I will spend scanning the card aisle at the grocery store knowing that I will not search for a corny Hallmark greeting for my Dad. There will be no last-minute gifts of ugly ties, strong cologne or half-attempts of baking a favorite something. I will not pick up the phone and say, Happy Father’s Day.
This girl misses her father.
Not just because Father’s Day is three days away.
I press rewind on my personal highlight reel and a series of memories start to play. As a little girl, my father taught me to ride my red Huffy bike. Once the training wheels came off, he pushed me down our sidewalk and then let go when convinced that my feet could muster enough pedal to make it down the end of the street. Of course, I fell several times, but every instance, he extended his hand, I got up and we tried again.
As a teenager, we practiced parallel parking in the lot behind my elementary school. Braking every few minutes, my father and I argued to maneuver the car in the right spot. Now I realized he wasn’t as proficient at parallel parking as he claimed, but he plugged along for my benefit.
My young women memories of my father are colored with some angst. There were hard things. I started realizing that people are never vanilla. They have flaws. We worked through it, but I think I realized that even parents aren’t meant to be perfect. I understand that even more after having my own daughter. She will also probably say, years from now, that her mother or father were flawed. It will be true. I know my father tried his best. Sometimes, along with this mixture of missing him, an anger creeps in. At first, this caught me off guard. How could I be angry at my father who passed on? It happens. I’ve learned that is the evolution of my grief. Navigating his illness because he kept it a secret warranted unforeseen consequences. I am trying to make peace with that now, but it is a peace I have to make alone.
As a mother and a daughter, what I miss the most is the ability to talk to my father. I miss talking him to on the phone. He always asked about the particulars of my day. If I needed advice, I relied on his opinion. We did not always agree, but somehow listening to his quirky (at the time I’d just call it wrong) views, comforted me. We loved to talk about political issues and interchange it with some discussion about current topics. I miss the late nights in our living room where we just sat and conversed about nothing in particular. My mom, periodically poked her head in and ordered us to go to bed. We were just getting our second wind.
When I think about not talking to my father, I realize all of what he missed. He missed witnessing both his daughters owning their homes. He missed reading a single piece of my writing. He missed watching his granddaughter hit a backhand. There were new memories to be made, I scream.
I stare again at the picture and a single tear falls. I thought I could do this, I say to myself.
This girl will always miss her father.
*** Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I am taking your granddaughter’s advice. I am looking up, right now, wishing you so much love. I will miss you forever.