I woke up this morning to a text from my daughter wishing me a Happy Father's Day. I, in effect, left her father before she was born, though the legalities would suggest otherwise as my divorce was not official for some months afterward.
Looking back on her childhood, I can honestly say that I wish I had done a better job at raising her. I wish I had been able to provide for her the kind of home life that I was lucky to have. I'm not saying our lives were unstable during those years -- we had a roof over our heads, clothing on our backs and food in our tummy but I sincerely believe that she missed out and I take full responsibility for that.
Those years were hard, but we had a lot of laughs and we did a lot of crying. We also grew up together. Like every parent and child, we have faced some challenges and continue to do so, but I am very proud of the woman she has become. Plus, she gifted me with my little man!
I often mention my Dad. The pain of his loss still lingers. Someone once put it very simply to me. He said:
"This kind of pain is like arthritis. Sometimes you have good days; and sometimes you have bad days. You've just got to keep going. He wouldn't have it any other way."
He was right.
I think of my Dad every single day. It is now 2,467 days since he's been gone.
He was my daughter's de facto father. I know she too feels his loss. He used to spoil her. The memory that is most vivid in my mind right now is the one of the day he spent shopping with her. One Easter holiday, he took her shopping for an outfit.
He had previously volunteered to drive her around to do that. She must have been about 10 or 11 years old; maybe a little younger. She already had an image in her mind for the outfit she wanted to wear. But, she still had to stop at every single store along their route to see what the pickin's were; only to end up at the first store they had visited. After all of that, my Dad stood beside her as she paid for the first outfit she had laid eyes on in the first store they had stopped in.
My daughter and I often recall that story. We always crack up laughing and I always end up with tears in the corners of my eyes.
Yea. He was Superman alright! I would have been pissed off if she had done that to me and he just supported her in her quest for the perfect outfit. Not a single complaint came out of his mouth to her.
When he later recounted his shopping jaunt to me, his frustration escalated as he told the story. In the end, he just laughed it off, saying:
Since my father's death, I've often thought about how he would feel about my newfound passion for writing. I can only hope he would be proud. While I sit here and type out this post, my heart beats a little faster. I struggle with the sting building up in my nose and the tears that burn in the corner of my eyes now threatening to break through the dam.
All I want is to smell his essence, I want to put on some bright red lipstick. I want to kiss his bald spot. I desperately want to hear his voice again, even if it's just to hear him tell me to "stop doing that shit!" ... those are the words he would use. And, I want to watch him as he shakes his head to and fro in either utter annoyance or total disbelief that I would be so silly.
Finally, I want to make him laugh out loud and I want to give him a bear hug.
Ay Papi! I miss you so much! I don't think I'll ever stop hurting.
To all my friends who are fathers, both men and women, Happy Father's Day!
Enjoy today as it is in your honor. But don't forget the indelible memories you have etched -- and will continue to etch -- in the hearts of those who call you "Father."