Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Dad Would Have Been 79 Today.

Dear Daddy,

Happy birthday, I guess. Whatever that means. Sorry, I'm not feeling particularly celebratory. If I'm being honest, I'm angry today. I miss you and it's not fair. I feel invisible - people don't always know how much it all hurts, even and especially years later.

I'm not mad at you. I don't know who to be angry at. But I'm angry that you're not here. Your grandkids are amazing people and you would've enjoyed watching them grow up into remarkable adults. I hate that you're not here with us, talking to us, hugging us, encouraging us.

I thought you'd be here teaching our kids to fish and play tennis. I thought you'd be here for recitals and birthday parties and award presentations. I thought you'd be here for barbecues or taking the bones out of delicious pieces of fish and giving the best parts to our kids, like you used to do for me when I was little. I know you would've liked to have been here.

Sometimes I have questions I'd like to ask you, but I can't, and I'm jealous of people whose dads are there for them. I'm jealous of big, happy, supportive, extended families who are there for each other, even on TV shows. I see neat pictures of daddys and daughters and smile and wonder if we have one like it, and if I can't come up with one, I'm overcome by the sadness that there's nothing I can do about it now. Those kinds of reminders and thoughts are hard. Because of a last-minute problem, there wasn't music at our wedding, and I didn't ever get to do the daddy-daughter dance I was so looking forward to. All these years later, Mark and I think about doing some kind of vow ceremony on the beach and I'm sad that I can't ever make that up to you or to me - our daddy-daughter dance. I had the song picked out from the time I was young.

I turn 40 in a couple of weeks and you know what? My dad should be alive to celebrate with me. I hate death. It sucks. I was 33 when you died. That's too young. I know that many others have dealt with their dad's deaths even younger, so I often feel like I can't complain, but then I talk to people who are older and whose dads are alive and I feel jealous.

I know. This letter makes me sound like a real charmer. Thing is, I'm not usually like this. But I have my moments. Doesn't everyone? I am pretty good about having a good attitude and making the best of things, but sometimes I'm tired and spent and angry. This is one of those times. And it's okay, and healthy even, to feel different emotions and be honest about them.

I feel like I so often talk to people whose problems are so much bigger than my own, and while that makes me grateful, I also think it makes me almost-constantly dismissive of my own issues. Like how can I possibly complain compared to so-and-so, you know? And over time, I start to feel very small and insignificant, even though I struggle with my own stuff, too.

If I'm being honest, sometimes I get tired of being there for everyone else while burying my own stresses deep down, feeling invisible and inconsequential myself. What a pity party, right? That's not how I mean it. I just mean it as honesty. Like I said, today I'm angry. And sad. And lonely.

None of this is coming out right. Maybe I shouldn't even bother with this. But I feel like I should recognize the day somehow. Usually we eat pizza in your honor, but I guess today I'm not feeling great, and I think it's fair to be honest and real about my feelings.

Ever since you died, I know it's been hard on Mom the most. I know that. No question. And I talk with her, I cry with her. I don't always know what to say when she cries. I let her know I'm thinking of her especially on the anniversary of your death and on your wedding anniversary, stuff like that. I try to look out for her, but it's kind of weird, I guess, because I feel like I'm the kid, the baby of the family, and I need some looking out for, too.

There are people in my life who never once, not a single time since your death in 2007, have taken a minute even once to ask how *I* am doing. And quite honestly, that really sucks. Because I'm hurting, too. Even the thought of someone asking me how I'm doing makes my lip quiver and makes tears run down my face. Like I'm just waiting for someone to care about me. Ugh, I know I sound pathetic, right?

Everyone wants kindness and to be thought of. I try to do that for others. You taught me that. Well, sometimes it's nice to know that people are thinking of you, too, you know? I know it makes me shallow, but sometimes it's really hard to be there for others when you so desperately wish they'd be there for you and recognize that you're hurting, too.

I feel so alone in my hurt sometimes. No one else had my experience with you growing up. No one else grew up with the relationship you and I shared - that was particular to us. So I don't have anyone to empathize on that one. No one to talk to. No one who gets it. It's weird to go on without you.

I miss you. I miss feeling looked out for by you. I feel like you had my back. If I needed $5 for a field trip, you'd give me $10 "just in case." You never got angry with me. You always had a hug, an arm squeeze, a wink, a smile, a hug for me. You didn't ever want me to be lacking or stuck or struggling. You wanted me to have a good life. You and Mom worked really hard to give me every opportunity. I'm grateful for that. And I miss you. I wish you were here to see what's come of all that - to see me, my family, share life with us.

You didn't get to see our new house, our business, our sweet dog who we love so much. I often wonder what you'd think of her, and vice versa. I think she'd love you.

I didn't ever get to go on a trip with you as an adult. We were JUST getting to the point where we could establish ourselves and afford more . . . and then you died. So, you saw me in school, struggling, moving, starting out, stressed, depressed, in debt, but you didn't get to see the pay off of all those years.

And I didn't get to . . . I don't know, feel secure as an adult in front of you. I didn't get to go to Disney with you and our kids. Or have you to our house in a proper guest room instead of a basement. I always wanted you to be proud of me, and I know you always were, but what would you think now? I mean, I feel more secure than I did then, I guess, but I also feel like a kid who's struggling, too. Does that feeling ever go away? I may be turning 40, but I feel like I'm 18.

Kate got published in December - isn't that great? She writes all the time and she's talented and driven and responsible. Her stories show her depth and maturity and skill. She's beautiful and confident and smart, and I love talking with her and doing things together. She's sweet and snuggly - you would love it. She is one of my very favorite people. Max has a black belt in Taekwondo and I know you'd be proud of that. He is playful and handsome and considerate - he is so compassionate and I love to hear his deep, meaningful thoughts on things. While he's a goofball and energetic and funny, he also loves to snuggle. He enjoys tennis and pizza, too, by the way - two of your great pleasures in life. He, too, is one of my very favorite people. He's your one grandson. I was so thrilled to be able to give you a grandson. They are incredible. They both stand up for what's right. I love them both so much.

There are people in our lives who are like surrogate grandparents to our children and it means the world to me. They could never take your place, of course, and none of them try to, but I love that they work so hard to be there for us and for our kids. I always worry that the kids are missing out with you not here, but the love and attention of these good people make up for that a little bit and it means a lot to me. You know some of them (like Jim) and some of them never got to meet you, but I know you'd be grateful to them.

It always pains me to talk about you to people who haven't met you. How can I put you into words? How can I possibly explain the way you'd light up a room with your very presence, make people laugh just because you were smiling, and how you'd make every individual that you came in contact with feel like the most important and loved person in the world? How can I possibly convey that?

We do a memorial service every year on the anniversary of your death. We all light candles floating in a bowl of water and as we take turns lighting the candles, we say something we remember and love about you. Then we take turns blowing out our candles and say what we'd like to say to you if we could send you a message, the smoke representing our words. Kate cries every year. A couple of weeks ago, I was cuddling with Max in his bed - he was feeling kind of down - and I told him that I sometimes feel down, too. I told him that I missed feeling looked out for by you. And as I shared with him, I saw a tear trickling down his cheek. I asked him what was wrong and he told me he missed you. You are loved and you are missed.

I think you'd tell me it's okay that I'm angry. (See? I hate that I have to play this guessing game as to what I think you'd do because you're not here). You wouldn't try to change me. You wouldn't say meaningless platitudes or lecture me on my attitude. You'd tell me you love me and that you're so proud of me. You'd hug me. You'd love me. You'd help me. You'd look out for me. I guess I just miss all that. And sometimes it makes me sad. And I guess sometimes I feel angry.

I miss you, Daddy.



Dr. Mark said...

"How can I put you into words?" Like you did just now.

Your father was one of the most incredible people I've ever known and loved. There are so many things he taught me, and so many more things he could still teach me. Life is cruel sometimes, and taking him so young, and while you are still so young is one of those cruelties.

He would still be looking out for you, making sure no one could ever hurt you. He'd still be handing you a ten instead of a five. He'd be right there on the floor with our kids or teaching them how to master cards or checkers. He'd still pull those little bones out of your fish. He would love Scout (maybe he'd call her Blackie) and Scout would love him. My guess is that your father would be the one man she liked from the word go. He's that kind of man.

I'm so sorry you're angry and hurting on this difficult day. No one could ever replace your father. Sometimes it's just fine to be angry.

Emily Foley said...

Here come some of those useless platitudes but this made me cry. I didn't know your dad but I feel so sad for you and what you have both missed by his early passing. I hate that for you, and I'm so sorry. Go throw a plate out the window and scream and cry because life is so unfair.

LMW said...

This letter moved me. Good dads are so special and it's absolutely, absolutely okay for you to still be sad and even angry that he's gone. It's not fair and it's okay for you to feel it and express it. Thank you for sharing your heart and I hope it helped you somewhat to put it out there.

Jimmy said...

I hope someday my daughters will feel as loved by their father as you feel by yours. I'd feel like a complete success knowing I left behind that kind of love.

Thank you. And thank him. He's helped me, too.

Jimmy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Stacy, Its funny that you wrote this about your Dad. I just read it and sobbed because I miss him and feel desperate more than angry that he is not here.
Everytime i return home from wherever i open the door and wait to hear " Zelia, es tu.". All I get is a very loud silence that burns my insides.
Not a day goes by that I dont cry, especially as I sit on my recliner and look over to his hoping to see him there.
I feel your anger and frustation but I love that you have those feelings for your Dad.
Yes, he would have loved Scout but he would call him blackie and no one would mind,
I feel his presence and know that he is watching over all of us.
Remember that i still know that he waited for you get here , he hung unto life until he saw you.
Some of his last words were HI bibi.
He would love your children and I know he does from where he is . I know that he died in peace knowing that you were married to Mark. He was the only boy that got instant approval to be your husband.
I am very proud of hou for both of us. You are a very compassionate daughter. one of my favorite photos of you and him is of you sitting at his death bed holding a tennis ball between your hand and his hand. the look on your face shows compassion, sadness and so many other feelings.
I am done for now . my vision is too blurred to continue.

The Magic Violinist said...

I miss him so much, and I wish I could remember more about him. I try to hold on to the few memories I have of him each year so they don't slip away, but it's hard. Reading this helped me to remember more. I really wish he could've met Scout. She would've loved him. I don't even think she'd bark at him, because he's so sweet and gentle.

Boquinha said...

Thank you, all. It did help to write that out. I so appreciate your kind, thoughtful comments. It means a lot.

Mom, that's one of the longest and best comments you've ever left me on our blog - thank you! I treasure it.

TMV, I think you're right.

LMW said...

Yes, that was a beautiful comment from your mom.:)