October 18, 2011

Love you, Daddy

My relationship with my Dad has changed considerably over the years, but the one constant aspect is love.

When I was small, I thought my Daddy could make stars. I would watch him from the edge of the garage as he welded things or sharpened skates or lawnmower blades (he owned a landscaping company), see the sparks fly, and think my Dad was the most amazing man on Earth. Piggy-back rides brought me closer to the stars, moon and sun, so I practically lived on my Dad's shoulders until I was three.

Fast forward a couple years and one of my fondest memories is that of Dad copping out on spanking me. My Mom was quite strict but didn't like to be the enforcer, so would make Dad punish us when we hadn't behaved to her standards ("You wait til your Dad gets home." Sound familiar?) If we had done something bad (talk back, not do what we were told), we would get a smack on the hand with a wooden spoon or belt on the bum. Sometimes though, Dad just didn't think it was fair (Who spanks a kid over a missing cookie?). Incapable of openly defying Mom, he would put a pillow over my backside, give it the strap, then tell me to look sad when I went out. I still smile thinking what a softie he was.

My sister was almost five years younger than I was, so as I got bigger and more capable, often it was just Daddy and me going to do things like windsurfing, swimming or checking the job sites (and working them! I never told you I was a child laborer, did I?). I can't recall many specific conversations we had, but I cherish the time we spent together. Of course most outings ended with a trip to the ice cream shop or McDonald's so that made time with Daddy extra special. He didn't make a big deal about ice cream dripping on my clothes or on the truck and let me hug and kiss him with food all over my face. I was the luckiest kid (along with my sister)!

The teen years were a bit rough - I went through a phase where I told my parents I hated them and wished they were dead - but Dad didn't give up on me even though he had his own troubles (Mom didn't give up on me either). By that time, he was hardly working due to mental health issues. It was scary not knowing what was going on with him. He spent a lot of time in his basement room alone. We didn't hang out much then but when he was having a good day, he would express interest in what I was doing and tell me what a good kid I was. I accepted that he was going through something and worried, but didn't know how to help. I just made sure to tell him "Good Night! Love you, Daddy." every night before bed. Some nights I had to tell him through the door - but when he did make it to his door, his eyes would light up and he'd give me a big bear hug.

Not long after high school graduation, I moved away and a year after, my Dad moved out. From then on, separated by 1,200 kilometres, I visited once a year for a few years, then there was a gap of a couple years, but we kept in touch by email, with occasional letters and phone calls. Although he was burdened with fears and financial woes, he took time to listen to my trivial problems. If I was upset with someone, he would sagely tell me, "He/She is doing the best they can." Food for thought. He himself was doing his best to survive, but unable to work, his best wasn't enough to keep his house. He hid it from us until he had to explain why mail was being returned and his phone was cut off. Somehow, he managed to keep his vehicle and came to visit me in 2002. I didn't know it at the time, but it was the last time I would ever see him. I remember him telling me how proud he was of me, and how I struggled to stay positive knowing he was living in his truck. After some more pleasantries, I asked him where he would go and if he wanted to stay with me, and he changed the subject.

My father's paranoia didn't allow him to accept the help most of the family so fervently offered. My Grandma and Aunt also invited him to live with them, but he was too afraid.  Over the next year he made his way up the West Coast and was out of contact for most of that time so I didn't even know if he was alive anymore. Every time the phone rang, I prayed it was him calling saying he would come stay with me. I did get a couple emails from different locations asking me to send money, which I did with a message saying, "Call me collect anytime. I miss you and I'm worried about you. Love you!" He never called.

Finally, Dad "landed" in a better place both geographically and mentally. He started working, made some friends and had an address. Communication became more regular and by mid-summer, eight months after arrival, he said it would be great if I came for a visit. This was a huge leap as he'd discouraged me from coming before (and refused to give me his address) and had turned down my invitation to come stay with me over Christmas. I started to think about when to go but had used up all my holidays for the year and was broke. I spoke to my sister in September and we tossed around the idea of going at Christmas so we could spend more time together than a weekend.

On October 17, 2007 I received a call telling me I would never get another phone call from my Dad. It didn't seem fair because Dad had been through so much and was doing better. He was only 55! He couldn't be dead! The phone call was supposed to say, "Your father is in the hospital, but he's stable." if there was to be any such call. At least he died quickly and supposedly without pain because he had such a sudden and massive heart attack. Hindsight is 20/20; of course I should have gone to him the instant I knew where he was, but it's too late for could have, would have, should haves. My only hope is that he knew how much his girls loved him.

I'm still not over his passing and don't know how you can get over the loss of a parent. I have yet to find a final resting place for Dad's ashes, I haven't closed his bank account and I haven't filed his taxes. In time these things will be easier to do and may offer some closure but I'm not ready yet.

I miss you and love you, Daddy.

4 comments:

I'm so sorry for your loss. I know it is never easy.

i lost my dad 3 years ago, i understand how you feel. i miss him so much..check out my blog www.flagphil.blogspot.com and follow us..

I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm sure he would be very proud of the work you're doing!!

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