Today is my daughter’s birthday, and as much as I want to celebrate this day, I am not prepared. I never am. You see, today also marks 22 years since my dad’s death. When I look at the calendar, the first thing I see is my father dying all over again. Every March 1, while I know I am moving further away from his time with me, I am incredibly taken by surprise at how emotional I get. I can remember every brutal detail about the hospital room, but I can’t remember his voice. I swear, keeping his memory alive is getting harder and harder as time passes. More than two decades later, and I’m not prepared for this day.
Truth be told, our relationship was nothing less than an uphill battle. Yet, the process of living without him still is challenging. There are moments that I miss. Moments of him just being there, being a dad. I think while I was growing up, he was in this profound struggle; I picture him fighting this epic battle inside – and not winning. I don’t ever remember not wanting to be his daughter, but I also don’t remember loving being his daughter. And it’s not because of the things he did, but it’s the things he didn’t do. He didn’t tuck me in or kiss me good night. He didn’t help me with homework. He didn’t pull me onto his lap, tell me stories or spend any time with me at all. No daughter needs grand gestures; it’s all about the little things… and physical affection. But still, he was my dad.
Time marches on. There’s nothing I can do to stop it. But it certainly feels like from here on out, staying connected to my father will be more challenging. He’s more gone now than he was yesterday or ten years ago, and each new day, new year, new decade, he’ll be further away. Someday I’ll have lived longer without him than with him. Accepting this seems like adding a new layer to my grief.
And I’m not prepared for that day.
In a few hours, I’ll see my daughter. We’ll hug and I’ll hold on to her a few seconds longer than she’ll probably want—but I’ll be too busy flashing back to the time she turned five in that brutal hospital room.
Happy birthday, Haley. I miss you, dad.