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.
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.