As I perused Facebook absentmindedly this afternoon, I noticed that several friends of mine had changed their profile picture to their wedding photos. It was fun looking back at these brides from years ago, some whose weddings I remember and some whom I didn’t know back then. At first, I thought perhaps it was another hashtag-y type of thing, just the wedding version. There’s #TransformationTuesday and #ThrowbackThursday. Perhaps this was #WeddingWeekend. I’m always next-to-last catching on to these trendy things. After several photos, though, I stopped.
“Oh,” I thought. “I get it now.”
In a split second, I realized this was something that I had missed. And, I’d been missing it for the last 14 years. A wave of pain washed over me all at once as I realized what I was seeing. My friends were posting pictures of themselves on their wedding day as their Daddy walked them down the aisle. It was a celebration of their Dads for Father’s Day as they remembered one of the most important moments of their lives.
I don’t have any pictures of my Dad walking me down the aisle. I walked alone.
It didn’t seem right to have someone stand in his place, as no one could ever really take his place. It’s been 14 years since he’s been gone, and I’ve known life nearly as long without him as I did with him. I hardly remember the person I was when I knew him. I’ve built an entirely different existence. And yet, somehow, in a moment all of the pain came rushing back to me unexpectedly.
I spent years and years crying for this man that I desperately loved. I missed him dearly. I would see a man from across the street at a distance and, for a split second, would think that it was him. I had dreams that he had taken a long trip and that even though I thought he was dead, it had all been a mistake and he’d come back. I could hear his voice and his words in my head. I would wake up in the morning, forgetting that he had died, only to be smacked with the reality of my loss.
Now, I don’t miss him very often. Most of my life is so completely different that there’s not much left to remind me of him. It’s strange to think that the world I live in is so far removed from the one he knew.
He had never heard of an iPhone or a TV that could record your favorite shows or a phone where you can actually see the person you’re talking to. When he died, he was still carrying around a Casio electronic address/date book that I’d given him. He had never heard of September 11th. That was just a date on the calendar for him. He never knew me as a wife. He never knew me as a mother. He didn’t even stay long enough to see my sisters graduate from high school. He wasn’t around to make sure we were gonna make it. And we almost didn’t.
Over the years, the all-consuming sadness has faded. But in some of those places where sadness was, anger now lives. The anger began to emerge when I became a parent. This beautiful, little girl came into my life, and I wanted more than anything to do right by her. I wanted to give her the very best that I could because she deserved it. What she needed me to be was more important than anything I wanted. That’s how it should be.
And I realized that, as a little girl, I deserved the good things in life as much as she does, but no one loved me enough to give them to me. I needed a mom and a dad who could give me safety and security, unconditional love and affection. They were too busy feeding their own addictions, one to alcohol and one to narcissism. When I became a parent, I understood what it is parents are supposed to do, and realized even more fully that mine didn’t do it. Didn’t even come close.
I’m angry that my Dad didn’t love me enough to stick around. That loving me wasn’t enough to bring him happiness. That he wasn’t strong enough to face the demons and ask for help. That he was a coward. That he had given up fighting. That he lost hope. Because there is always hope.
So on this Father’s Day, I remember him. For the good and the bad and everything that I missed.