Sunday, February 20, 2011


Dear Daddy,

Today would have been your 76th birthday and it pains me that I can't call you and wish you a happy birthday. So, I come here and write as a way to sort of do it anyway, I suppose. Though a "Happy Birthday" on a blog doesn't seem sufficient, it is the best I have.

Sometimes I feel sad. I miss you and it doesn't feel good. It catches me off guard, this sadness. It's more spaced apart, I suppose, than it was at first, so when it comes on, it often surprises me -- it is a painful surprise.

Sometimes I feel lonely. I suppose that isn't the right word for it, but I don't know what you call it when you simply feel about a billion times less looked out for than you used to . . . and you miss it. I have many people who love me and look out for me and I know that, but there's something about the way you've always looked out for me, the way only the father of a daddy's girl can. I miss that and your voice and your hugs and kisses most of all.

Sometimes I feel understood. I had a client come in this week -- she had a warm and close relationship with her dad and he died less than a year ago. Her emotions were still so close to the surface. As she talked about her feelings, one thing she kept saying, "I feel less looked out for!" stood out to me personally. She and I are similar in age and we both agreed that no matter how old you are, you always want your dad. And there is a BIG void left in my life by your death. She and I shared a kinship for a few moments and that was very validating and healing for me.

Sometimes I feel misunderstood and judged. It's taking a lot for me to even post this. You know why? Would you believe that some time ago, someone, rather than trying to understand or empathize, challenged my grief? That person thought it was his right to question my life decisions and asked if your death was "just too hard." How dare anyone, especially someone who has never been through it, question how I process my thoughts and feelings. The whole experience only made me miss you more and long for there to be more men like you -- dads who care but don't force or impose their views, dads who allow their daughters to be whoever they want to be.

One of my favorite parenting quotes is this one:
"Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you."
-- Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

That's exactly how you've raised me. How I miss that. How I hope that I can be that kind of parent. I'm trying. So, while it's taking a lot for me to post this and I know I haven't written much about this for a while now, I refuse to give someone else that much power. This is my blog and these are my feelings.

Sometimes I feel so very grateful. I see other dads and I know that I got the best dad for me. Even if you rolled up all of the wonderful qualities in others and put it into one person, that person would still not measure up to you. Not for me. There is no one who could ever take your place. I feel grateful that you're my Dad.

Sometimes I feel jealous. I know that's terrible, isn't it? I'm not generally a jealous person at all, but I do feel it sometimes. I feel it when I see people my age wishing their Dads a Happy Father's Day. I feel it when I hear people say that they're attending their father's birthday parties. I feel it most especially when I see grandfathers spending time with their grandchildren. Sometimes my eyes even sting with tears at the thought of what our children are missing out on.

And sometimes I even feel angry, but mostly I feel jealous. They could not ask for a better Vavó and they didn't get you for nearly enough time. Not even close. And sure, they have your legacy, your stories, videos, pictures, memories . . . but it's not the same as when you were here, holding them, hugging them, loving them, talking with them, never raising your voice to them just like you never raised your voice to me, caring about them, playing with them, appreciating them, teaching them, letting them be themselves, spoiling them. I miss that. I miss that so much that it hurts.

Sometimes I feel tired and stretched thin. You see, I think I try to make that up to them, the loss they have in missing out on having a grandfather's time and love like that, and I know there's no way I can replace it anyway, but I try. I think of ways that I can teach them all the things I know you would have -- Portuguese, woodworking, fixing things around the house, cooking, helping others, generosity, gardening, fishing, tennis . . . but it's not the same. I can be the best me I can be, but I don't know how to be you. I just can't give them that. And it sucks that they're missing out on that.

Sometimes I feel reminded. Like today. The calendar tells me it's your birthday, but I don't even know what to think of that. You would've been 76 and I think you should still be here. And I hate that Parkinson's robbed you of so many good years that you did have left. It isn't fair, you know. You exercised and cared about your weight and being fit. And yet, Parkinson's didn't see that or didn't care. It chose you anyway and slowly stripped you of all your enjoyment, hobbies, abilities, health, and ultimately, life.

I get reminded when I see others with Parkinson's. It jolts me, those reminders. I have walked out of rooms where I just couldn't stand to stay and see the stiff unblinking blank mask stare of someone who has the disease. I can pick it up in a second now, those tell-tale signs. And I can't look at it. I start to ache and then my face begins to tremble and I leave to get away or get some air or cry or try not to cry.

Sometimes I feel haunted by the memory of helping you die. It was a difficult process and so painful for you and for everyone involved. I try to think of you as young and vibrant and laughing and happy and able and pain-free, but sometimes those images of you lying in bed slowly fading away are what enter my mind, pushing away those earlier, happier memories. And I think it's cruel that there's not some easier way to help people in situations like that.

Sometimes I feel mind-boggled by the uncertainty of death and where you are. I've been told many things by many people, but the truth is that no one knows definitively. They choose to believe things, they want to believe things, maybe they even do believe things. But they don't know. That's something I learned when you died -- that sometimes what you've believed so earnestly to be true just isn't. Death is one of those great mysteries and it boggles the mind to comprehend it. But if there is one gift in all of it, it is that I have learned, unlike never before, to feel peace in the uncertainty. And what a gift that has been! It has changed my life and brought new perspectives and a peace that I had never before experienced. Though I'd love to have you here instead, it is a comfort and gift.

Sometimes I feel lucky. I know that not everyone has a good relationship with their Dads and I am a very lucky person indeed to be able to say that I always, always have. I know that that is in large part due to your unconditional love and acceptance of a daughter who could be very strong willed and independent.

Sometimes I feel happy. Happy to be your daughter and to have been raised and loved and watched out for by you.

Mostly I miss you. It's natural for me to have so many thoughts and emotions, I know that. But the one I feel most of all is just the loss of you, the void left by your death, the big, gaping hole that exists because you're not here. I miss you being here as my Daddy, being here helping Mark in the yard and the garden, being here asking if we're okay and helping us get ahead in whatever way needed, being here supporting us in our dreams, being here playing with the kids, spending time with them and giving them your undivided attention -- wow, did you ever excel in that -- we've always felt that nothing ever was more important to you in that moment than simply BEING with us, being here visiting with Mom, being here and fixing things around the house, being here for me to call, listen to, talk to, visit, hug, hold. It doesn't seem fair that we can't still do that. I miss you.

So, happy birthday, I guess. I'll be honest that it's not so happy for me all the time around this time of year. It hasn't been for years now. For some reason, the date on the calendar sort of looms there as yet another painful reminder that you're not here and I struggle to do just about anything around this time of year. I try to go about my life, but something feels very "off." And then I realize it's this.

But I'll tell you where it is I do feel happy -- I'm happy that I got you as my Dad and happy that that will never change, I'm happy for how you've raised me, I'm happy that you've always loved me unconditionally, I'm happy that you've always allowed me to be myself, I'm happy that you've always cared for me and for my family. Basically and most simply, I'm happy you're my Dad and I love you.



the emily said...

Happy birthday to your dad.

I love that quote. Love it. I hope I can be that kind of person.

My parents' next-door neighbor passed away from cancer this week. He was only 65. And my next-door neighbor's mom had a heart attack on Tuesday and died. She was fit and healthy and only 52. Sometimes death just boggles me in who it chooses. I wish it hadn't chose your dad so early.

Kristie said...

Happy Birthday to your Wonderful Father.

The picture of him with your children is priceless.

Jimmy said...

I hope that my daughters will feel about me the way you feel about your dad. I hope that I can do as great a job as he did at making them ufeel nconditionally loved. I never met him, but I thank him for setting that example. And I thank you for writing about him.

bythelbs said...

This was a sweet post. Beautiful thoughts to have recorded.

D'Arcy said...

Happy Birthday to a father we all only dream of having. I'm so glad you had this man in your life for as long as you did. And I'm so sorry you don't have him there now. I truly am. I wish I could give you a huge hug today. Love you!!

Vivian said...

Great, heartfelt post. I am really glad I got to meet your dad. He truly is special. Sometimes people tend to "elevate" their memories, if you know what I mean. But in this case, I can agree with everything you said about Bob. One of a kind. You are blessed to be his daughter.

Cristin said...

What a beautiful post . . . I can tell how much you love your dad. :) I never got to meet him, but I feel like I get to know him a little when I read your posts about him or when you tell me about him. My mom lost her mother to breast cancer when she (my mom) was only 24, and she still talks about how much she misses her . . . but then we always end up talking about my grandmother and I get to know her a little more, too. Thanks for the post! And happy birthday to your dad!

J Fo said...

Thank you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable and truly sharing your thoughts and feelings. I had a friend who suffered a pretty heartbreaking loss this week and all I could think of to comfort her is to say that it sucks. It really sucks that your dad isn't here anymore. Not so eloquent, but true I think.

Peg said...

What a sweet letter. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday to your beautiful father. I know that nothing anyone says can take away the pain of losing your father. I also know how cruel PD can be and how it will also take my father's life one day. Sometimes we need to be sad and angry with hearing "It will be okay". I feel the pain and anger too. Love, Kelly xo

Chelle said...

I can only imagine the void. Sometimes I wonder if death is so hard to deal with because the void can't really be filled with anything else or by another person. People can't be replaced...they can only missed after they're gone. Sorry you have to miss your dad.

Boquinha said...

Thanks so much, everyone, for the kind comments and stories and thoughts and for the empathy. I really appreciate them very much. Every single one of them and every single one of you. Thank you.

Mrs.Rat said...

Beautiful to be able to be in touch with your thoughts and feelings... You are pressing on in a healthy way...through your journey... ~don't let some comments block you. Some just don't understand. As you continue through....he is always a part of your life...for like a beautiful bouquet...he is like a flower that brings beauty to you...even though I didn't meet him...his life is in you.

terahreu said...

So sweet, and so sincere. Beautiful. Feeling it all makes you know you are alive and that your relationship was real.