When I was a little girl, I loved my dad more than anything in this world. I remember looking up into his sun-worn face, crow’s feet hugging his tired ice-blue eyes, and knowing beyond all doubt that I was truly loved. All of the uncertainties and insecurities of childhood faded when I was with him. I knew that he would take care of me, protect me. He was home to me.
It’s been nearly fifteen years now since I’ve seen his face, since I’ve held his hand, since I’ve heard his infectious laugh. Sometimes it feels as though the memories have forever faded into oblivion- like a dream that you just can’t quite recall. Other times, I remember like it was yesterday touching his cold, hard hand inside that baby blue casket on a cold December day.
Loving my dad was never easy. He was flawed in all of the tragic ways, and tragedy followed him until his last breath. Sometimes I don’t want to remember how much I loved him because it’s easier to feel the anger at him that still lingers in my heart. He brought so much sorrow and pain to my life, but he also was the first person to show me what love really was.
I wish I could put my memories into a box and separate them into the good things and the bad things, but I can’t. My young life wasn’t one or the other- good or bad, love or loss, broken or beautiful. It was and continues to be all of those things, all mixed up and pieced together in a way that is unique only to me, to my story. The best way I know how to honor my dad is to tell the story of who he was, his great triumphs and his great failures, to uncover and share how he loved me, how he shaped my life and how that legacy lives on in my family with my own children.
One day, I’m going to tell the story, his story and mine. And today, the day that would have been his 61st birthday, is the day that I’m going to begin.