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Daddy, what if?

My writing career, if you can call it that, started with my first published piece on Father’s Day in 1990.  It was published in the Sunday Edition of The Tennessean, in a small column called “The Nashville Eye.”   The title they chose? “She Still Dreams of Life With Dad.”

How appropriate that here I am, eighteen years later, sitting at my computer as Father’s Day approaches, still dreaming.

For those who know me, and even those who don’t, it is important to understand that by doing this, I am exposing my feelings in their purest form.  Sometimes embarrassment follows, as if I’ve said too much. But still, the writing process cleanses my soul in some way.

And on Father’s Day, I just don’t have a choice.

You see, my father, who was a preacher down in Corinth, Mississippi back in November of 1967, was fatally injured in a car accident. I was only six months old at the time, and my older sister, Jeanna, was barely three-years-old.

So, forgive me if the cleansing of my soul also means that tears roll down your face as well.  Maybe I do say too much, but then again, maybe God gave us all stories so that they could be shared.

Dear Daddy,

I spent the weekend listening to Father’s Day tributes all over the radio.  A million songs filled with memories that I don’t have, and it still hurts me to this day.

I’ve always said that the hardest part about you dying was not that you left, but that you never came back.  I would have given anything to spend a day with you, even if it was our little secret.  I so needed a memory to call my own.

So, now it’s been 41 years worth of times that we needed you, and every day, you are still gone.  I’ve learned that the world tends to move on quickly from these things, but for those of us left behind, you still aren’t here and that never changes.

Sure, we move on.  We live.  We heal.  But we are never the same.

Somewhere along the way, I wondered why I couldn’t get over you.  Was something wrong with me? How can I miss something that I never had?  How could a man in a picture mean so much to me?

I tried to recreate a memory – to stand where you once stood and learn everything I could about you.  I would imagine your voice and try to touch anything you may have touched. I assumed that if you were here, any problem I ever had could have been resolved with a hug.  I never imagined any rough times in our relationship, but since you were a fairy tale, I could make you anything I wanted to, right?

But that’s just the problem.  It was like I was describing a fictional character, and the only way you existed was in my mind.  That’s just not the same thing as a memory.

But, it finally dawned on me this weekend, as all those “Daddy” songs kept reminding me of the things we never got to do together, that it’s not the lack of memories that bothered me so much.

It’s the love that is supposed to go with those memories.

Daddy, I don’t want to hurt you by saying this, but I don’t remember feeling loved by you. It’s like it was something else I imagined; just another dream.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not your fault.  And in my mind, I know you loved me, and still do.  But in my heart, the only thing it remembers about you is that you weren’t here.   Maybe that’s why I can’t get over you.

Did you know that every day was hard for Mom?  Though she rarely showed it, somehow, she was able to constantly prove she was strong enough to handle it.  She did a great job of raising us, always placing our needs before her own.  But deep down inside, I don’t think any of us really want to do this all by ourselves.

Did you know that when I was little, and was trying to figure out this thing they casually call “death,” I used God as a messenger to get to you?  I would pray to him every night, but in the beginning, it was only because he knew you.

Did you know that for as long as I can remember, my number one goal was to get to heaven?  Again, that was more about you at the time than it was my love for God or Jesus.  But if that’s where I had to go to meet you, then that’s where I was going.

Did you know that when Jeanna had her bike accident when she was 9, and I saw her lying in the street unconscious and bleeding, that I kept yelling at everyone and telling them not to let her die?  I truly didn’t want her to die, but I also thought that if one of us was going to get to be with you, I wanted that person to be me.

Kind of a twisted way of thinking for a 6-year-old, I guess, isn’t it?

My motivation may have been selfish in the beginning, but what developed through the years, though, was this very personal relationship between me and God.  I remember hearing the scripture that said “God is Father to the Fatherless,”(Psalm 68:5) and we had a deal from that day forward.  I was asking the hard questions from the start, and he was OK with that.

When I prayed, I would say, “My Fathers, who art in heaven. . . ” and he was OK with that.

I told him everything about how I wished he had handled our lives differently, that we needed you here, and that I didn’t think it was fair. And he was OK with that.

And somehow, as Daddies do, he comforted me.

In my own little girl logic, I ended up feeling sorry for those who hadn’t gone through it yet.   And sometimes, I felt that I had the advantage, because I had two “Fathers in Heaven” watching over me, and everyone else had just one.

They say that our Dad’s are here to show us the love of God, our Heavenly Father, right?  Well, you’ve done that better than any of them, I suppose.

The truth is that I don’t ever really want to get over you.    To this day, everything that is wrong with me – and everything that is right with me – it all started with you.  It makes me who I am today, and I don’t want to let go of that.

Because of you, I see what is most important in life, and can spend my time and energy on the things that matter most. Because of you, I treat each day as if it could be my last, so that there are never any regrets. Because of you, I make sure that my family will always remember what it was like to feel loved.

Still, what I wouldn’t do for a big hug and the chance to cry out all this strength I’ve held on to for all of these years.  Sometimes, I get tired of being strong. I just want you to be here doing all the Father and Grandfather things you are supposed to be doing.  I want my kids to know you, and to make jokes about how you are losing your hair or something.  I want you to be planning some sort of retirement cruise with Mom.  I want to see you grilling out in shorts and black socks so we can tell you how embarrassing that is. . .

There I go dreaming again.

I guess one day, when I can be more spiritual and less human, I’ll trade in all these earthly dreams for those about heaven.   I have no idea what you’ll look like up there, but you had better have big arms, because I can’t wait to run into them.

Until then, Happy Father’s Day.

9 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 31, 1969

    You are so like your father in so many ways. I'm sorry you don't at least have partial closure on some of it. But at least you are yearning in the right direction for guidance. God Bless You and those who know you!!!

  2. jeffwalker
    jeffwalker June 16, 2008

    Janet, first time reader here but oh, what a first time post to read. That was beautiful and I thank you for having the strength and courage to be open enough to share it with us.

  3. Hush
    Hush June 16, 2008

    Janet, this is painfully honest and endearing. Thank you.

    My own father was off the scene for reasons of serious alcoholic violence, not death, but I wanted him there. It wasn’t God or nature that hadn’t allowed him to remain, but other people. Though I could hardly argue with his horrible realities and civil authorities, still, not anyone knew the him that I did. He disappeared from my life, and I was expected to be ok with it. I had to be, else I only cause my mother more pain, but it seemed only to make it harder on me to be able to forgive him when no one else would. There came a day when he didn’t write anyone anymore, tho’, from so far away on the opposite coast. As I much later held my mother’s body in my arms as an unseen Someone received her soul from out of it, I wished he’d been there to help take the brunt of this..I wished it for both bad reasons as well as good. A couple of years later, I found out online, by his social security number and date of birth, that he had died 10 years before that. It hit me harder than it should’ve, but we’re kids inside, when it comes to Dad (or Mom), I guess. And I want to bring his body home, and can’t afford to, yet. Indeed, tho’, God is Father to the Fatherless.. not only in prayer and emotion, but there are uncles or maybe a grandpa or the occasional presence or protection of a friend’s dad for some of us.

  4. Poopsie
    Poopsie June 18, 2008

    Honey,

    Still as good, as moving, as touching as it was all those many years ago as I read it in the Tennessean. I am proud of MY writer. And I hope for you all the success you deserve. You do deserve it, honey. God has great articles, children’s stories, books of poems and novels in your future!

    I love you!
    me

  5. Kelly
    Kelly June 28, 2008

    What an amazing piece of literature! God as truly equipped you with His power to continue this journey of life.

  6. Jeannine Morris
    Jeannine Morris July 10, 2008

    You are so like your father in so many ways. I'm sorry you don't at least have partial closure on some of it. But at least you are yearning in the right direction for guidance. God Bless You and those who know you!!!

  7. MOM
    MOM July 13, 2008

    Very few people I know can express themselves, even their deepest feelings, quite like you do. Maybe it’s just the mom’s prejudice in me, but thank you God for that blessed Mother’s Day in 1967 when you were born.

  8. Robin Frelix
    Robin Frelix November 12, 2010

    You are an amazing writer!!! You are a blessing. You are a very expressive and talented person. You make me want to go to my dad’s house right now and hug and kiss him into oblivion! Of course I can’t cuz it’s 1a.m. and he will think I’m crazy! So…uh…I’ll wait til later in the morning! lol Thank you for your blessed writings about your father! I was born in 1967 also! I turned 43 in October! I’m a serious daddy’s girl! My dad is my life! My mom left me and my 2 brothers when I was 13. My dad is the one who had to teach me all things feminine. He raised us. You were born on Mother’s Day? I lost a baby on Mother’s Day in 1996. I had a miracle child born a year later right after Mother’s Day! He is 13 now. He was called to preach at the age of 4! He is a Godsend. I’d like you to meet him one day! Thanks for all you’ve done for our family in the last few weeks! I love you in Christ Jesus!

    Robin

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