Advancing age never fails to bring the reality of impending mortality into very stark relief (for me). I have found that I have begun to wonder and to try to prepare myself for not only the phone call, but the reality of (my) life…after my father’s death.
The phone call. My sisters and I have discussed which one of them will be saddled with the task of letting me know that Daddy has passed away; I believe it stands now that there won’t be a phone call at all – my sister, Joanne, the doctor, will show up at my door (and that will say it all)…with drugs. Truly. I will need them. This leads me to my other thought.
Life with my father has not always been easy; nor has it always been the stuff that pride is made of. But, it has always been constant. Do you know what I mean? There is a certain comfort in being able to depend on the consistency of things; even consistent chaos or disorder. My father, because of some of his decisions and choices, has over the years, given us quite a bit to worry about; and at times, reasons to fear for his well-being. My father is spoiled and willful and at times, selfish. He is also one of the most poetic, sensitive and generous men I have ever known. My father is devilishly handsome and dresses his ass off!
My father grew up surrounded by older and younger sisters who catered to his needs and pampered him; neglecting to adequately prepare the unsuspecting world for his presence J . So, he was left to roam the universe unattended; hence, my sisters and me. Ha-ha. Okay; let me get serious here. I have three sisters; but, my father has six daughters (my Math is not wrong; you’ll figure it out). He has made mistakes; some of them big; and, in some ways, we are all still feeling the effects of same. But, I adore that man!
Throughout my life, throughout all the messes and physical absences, my father has been the one constant emotional cheerleader I have had. He is a man I can depend on to listen, to give understanding and advice (even when unsolicited), to show up and, if necessary, to stay. He is far from perfect; but so am I. And, like most of us girls, my father is the first man to have had an enormous amount of influence on my perceptions of the world in general and men in particular.
From this man I learned the “artistry” that personifies chivalry; through him, I am constantly reminded that it is definitely not dead! My father opens and holds doors for us to walk through first, sits after we do, waits to begin eating until all the food is on the table and we are all seated at our places, says Grace before every meal, speaks well, insists of paying the tab when out with his children (even did so for his surprise birthday dinner this past weekend), stays in touch (sometimes too much), walks on the outside when walking with me in the street (well, he used to; now he has lost his hearing in his left ear; so…), dresses with perfection to honor each occasion and person in attendance, is supremely gracious to friends, is open about his love for me (so much so he will put strangers in the street on the spot by asking them, “how beautiful is my daughter?”), sings the entire “Happy Birthday” song at every birthday; complete with his own added verse and emotional wobbles in his voice, my father speaks his mind (THAT is where I have gotten it from) and gives you the truth; but never, ever, not ever allows anger or disappointment to preclude him from loving!
Can you tell…I adore him! But, to be truthful, as much as he has always made his love for me known, my father has also introduced the word ‘abandonment’ to my life. When a man…no, when a parent ‘vanishes’ at your young age, too young to understand the reasons(s) why, it changes your reality. But that is another blog post altogether; maybe. The thing is though, I am now trying to prepare for his leaving again; and this time, he won’t be back. Wow! Now, when I walk with him and notice his limp that makes us walk so much more slowly, the slight tremors in his hands and the slowing down of his speech, it is almost like a dose of icy water; I just always thought he would never grow old. I just never thought he would ever leave (me).
Let me address this: this post will end before I have stated all that I intended; the tears are now taking over. But, let me tell you what I have decided to do – my father knows how much I love him (I tell him and I show him); but, I have decided to write him a love letter (he is after all my first boyfriend) and read it to him now, soon – because he’s going to ‘miss’ it at his funeral.
I love you, Daddy.