Tonight as I was scrolling down my FaceBook feed, this came up and I read it and my dad popped into my mind. He died back in the fall of 1990, nine days short of his 59th birthday.
What came along with the thought of my dad was a rush of all the things I had wished we could have talked about but never did. My dad was uncomfortable talking about feelings. He had a hard time showing tenderness and love. He believed that he showed his love by working hard and making sure we had everything we needed. We never went without material goods. He was a product of the times and of his own upbringing.
Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night, I think of my dad. I wonder what kind of childhood he had. Did he feel loved? Did he feel safe? Was there tenderness and kindness in his world? Did he ever go to bed and cry because he was hurt or lonely or felt unloved. What did he think of his mother and father? How did their lives shape and mold his? Did he have dreams as a boy? What did he want to grow up to be? Did he do well in school? Was he liked by the other children? Did he have friends?
How did his parents show their love? Was strict discipline and physical punishment the only signs of love he got?
He met my mom when they were both 16. What did he think of her? How did he know when he fell in love? What did it feel like to him? Did he have any role model of what a good marriage looked like? What were his expectations of his bride and how did he think the “man of the house” should act and think? Was he at all afraid to marry and have a family?
What was his idea of a perfect life? Of a perfect family?
How did he feel when my mom told him she was pregnant just two months after they were married? Was he happy? Did he long for a son? What were his thoughts on life with a baby?
What did he experience during the 38 hours my mom was in labor with me? Was he terrified she would die or that I would? And when they came and told him that they would have to take me by C-section and all he heard was “sections” and thought I would be coming out in pieces, did he cry? Did he mourn the child he might not have?
And when I was born whole and he got to hold me, what was he feeling? Pride? Fear? Disappointment that I was not a man-child?
How did he cope with sleepless nights with a colicky baby? Was he sharp with my mother? Did he think she should be doing a better job? Did my constant crying make him irritable and angry? Was he worried that I might really be sick and he was secretly scared?
And how did he feel when 2.5 years later another daughter was born. And there would be no more chances to have a son? Did he care?
How did he cope in the lean times? Was he ever afraid of losing his home? Did he stay up nights worrying how to pay the bills? Did he ever resent us for having to work so hard to keep us fed and clothed and sheltered?
What gave him joy? What made his heart sing? What were his adult dreams? Did he dream big or did he feel he was not educated enough to do better? What were his fears?
And when we started dating, what thoughts went through his mind? Did he worry when we were late or did he just get mad because we disobeyed? Did he ever think we were never coming home again?
He and I had a very difficult relationship. He wanted strict rules that were to be followed to the letter. I wanted freedom. He wanted control over everything. I wanted control over something. So we clashed. I rebelled in every manner I could get away with even though I knew the consequences would be ugly. I never felt rebellious, I just wanted to do what most everyone else was doing and he was trying to keep me safe in his own way.
How did he feel when I left home after an awful argument? Was he heartbroken? Was he sad? Or was he just so mad that I had once again not played by his rules even though I was a 21 year old adult working full time. Was he ever sorry for some of the things he did when he was angry at me? Did he ever wonder if I hated him and if so, did that thought break his heart?
How did it feel to have his favorite child get married? Did he miss her company? Was it hard for him not to show any emotion at the wedding? Did he want to weep at the thought of his little buddy becoming the little buddy to someone else?
And when he found out he was going to be a grandpa, how did he feel about it? Was there an inner excitement in him when he found out it was a boy?
There is one question that never needed to be asked and that was if he loved his grandchildren. He adored them. He showered them with love and affection and I wondered where it had been stored when we were growing up!
My dad had his first heart attack at age 36 and from that moment on, we all lived on eggshells. I wonder what thoughts were going through his mind as he lay in the hospital for 30 days. He was a boxer in his younger days and was always so strong. Did he feel tiny and vulnerable? Did he think of his mom who had just died the year before of a massive heart attack? Did he think he may never see his girls grow up, never walk them down the aisle? Or were his thoughts more about how the bills were going to get paid while he was off of work?
Then there were the two open heart surgeries and the cancer diagnosis. What kinds of thoughts raced through his mind? Did the thought of death frighten him? Was he more worried about my mom and her welfare than of his own? Did he ever cry in the middle of the night at lost dreams, chances not taken, roads not explored? Did he regret anything in his life? Did he wish he had done things differently? Did he feel all alone?
So many questions I wish I could have asked. I would have liked to have known my dad as a person not just my father. I would have liked to have known his history. Perhaps I could have been more forgiving having known how he grew up and the things he suffered. I cry sometimes when I think of all the hurts he may have endured that we knew nothing about. The loneliness he may have felt.
Tonight my arms ache to hold him and to tell him I really did love him even when I thought I didn’t. To listen to his story and to cry with him and to laugh with him and to look him in the eyes and see the love he had for me that I couldn’t see all those years ago. And to tell him I am sorry that we never had the chance to be close and to ask his forgiveness for all the times I made him angry or sad or disrespected. And to tell him I forgive him for not being a perfect father and that I can now see that he did the very best he could with what skills and knowledge he had and that everything he did was out of love for me and my sister and my mom.
I don’t know if I shall ever get to see him again in the next world. But if I do, this time it will be a perfect relationship, in a perfect place and there will be no tears, no anger, no disappointments, no rebellion, just PERFECT LOVE FOR ALL OF ETERNITY.
Keep the coffee on dad…it won’t be long and we will have forever to talk.
I loved you when you were here and I love you still, Dad.