I woke up to an e-mail from one of my dad’s best friends this morning. He wanted me to know he was thinking about my dad and how much my dad had helped him through some difficult parts of his life. Almost all of his friends who I’ve been in touch with since he passed away three and a half years ago, have told me they always looked forward to their birthdays because it meant a call from my dad. He never missed a birthday. And they all knew they would miss him most on their own birthdays.
Today is my dad’s seventy-second birthday and the fact that he’s not here to celebrate it stings as much as it did on his birthday six months after he died. Our relationship was complicated and I used to think it was dysfunctional. I spent many days and nights wondering if he actually loved me. I remember wondering as a lonely freshman in college hundreds of miles from home, how a father could let his wife-of-the-moment tell his daughter she couldn’t stay at his house. I remember the moment I realized and overheard him say he needed me to be something more than I was—a pretty smart teenaged girl without many differentiating qualities. But it was at the end, and in the years just prior to his death, that there was no question of his love for me and for my family. He made the drive from DC countless times to be present at the many important events in our lives. He talked to my kids and spent time getting to know them and accepting them for exactly who they were. And we spent copious amounts of time on the phone discussing everything from politics to writing. I also began to realize everyone has some form of dysfunction and our family was no different.
But now, I have so many questions to ask him and things I need him to help me figure out. I want him to answer questions about his life. I want to know what made him realize I was a daughter worthy of his time…and if there was really a time where I wasn’t or it’s just the tricky thing we like to call our memory playing games with me. I have a box full of papers that each time I open I find more questions to ask.
The signs from him have become fewer and farther between. So I find the questions I throw out into the universe don’t get answered as quickly as I’d like. Maybe that’s because with each passing day he’s still on my mind but he’s become more and more disconnected from my daily life as he’s gone from my physical world. But I see him and hear him in Alex and each time it sends shivers up my spine. Alex’s voice and the way he says certain things remind me my dad’s still here scattered into each of us.
So today I started this post because I’m looking for answers to questions about my dad that are too long to list. I also wrote a paragraph in my novel about trying to find answers after a person has died. Answers are the thing I’m searching for…and when I went upstairs and moved the book I’d been reluctantly reading (it’s been recommended by many and I just can’t get into it but feel compelled to read it to see why others like it) off of my bed, I looked at the last paragraph on the page I had marked and it said simply, “There will always be more questions. Every answer leads to more questions. The only way to survive is to let some of them go.” (From every day by David Levithan) The angels started singing and the sun got brighter. I had my AHA! moment…and my sign from my dad. Not to mention, I suddenly knew why I had been reading the book to begin with.
Happy Birthday, Dad! Thank you for your message. It settled my mind and helped me wrap up a loose end in my third novel which I have not doubt is exactly what you would have done if you were standing right next to me.