I was 9 or 10 the last time I called him Dad. Much like not having the foreknowledge of the last time you’ll make love to a soon-to-be ex lover, or the last time to say I love you to one that dies unexpectedly, the words came and went without fanfare. What really should be shouted down from the heavens to the world below about THIS being the last time for something significant, that this time should be duly noted, fades into the folds of the everyday and passes as easily as the weather on a particular day. The last time of anything should be given respect. But seldom is. Until later.
Today is later. Today the death certificates came. I’m the “informant”. “Daughter” it says. On the death certificate of my father. The fact I’m old enough to be in some official capacity on someone’s death certificate is something of an alarm. One of those rites of passage. Of the aging process. Something that only happens to those of us blessed enough to have outlived a loved one I guess.
My biological father, a man whose memory has been firmly, neatly, summarily slammed the door on, died on August 13. Did I think he’d never die? Did I think I wouldn’t know? Or that I wouldn’t care? I can’t say now what I thought before August 13, but whatever it was, was wrong on all counts.
“Father” is to be distinguished from a Daddy. Well you already know that. They are often one and the same. But maybe just as often, to give a nod to all those who’ve raised children not of their own blood line, not. Thankfully I still have a Daddy. He came into my life simultaneously with the cessation of my father hearing my 9 or 10 year old voice call him “Dad.” My Daddy is the first love of my life. All the respect, admiration, love that I can muster is his. And he knows it. He mourns with me, expected my confusion upon this event, and prays for my grief to be relieved.
I’m shocked by the emotional fallout. Unanticipated, unplanned, unprepared. Pretty much everything falling in the “un” category. With the exception of distraught, stunned, brought to my knees, and as my mother puts it “the gut wrenching emotions that you could have only experienced at his death and not a moment before”.
As my father became an old, withered man, I became a vibrant, full grown woman. And I failed to realize that. My memories of him, set in the unchanging past, did not progress true to life. Reality failed me. The tables turned my friends at a point I neglected to observe. The caregiver/parent became the needy and the needy/child became the caregiver. It is the cycle of life. A cycle of life I regretfully missed.
There are times we recognize we really messed up. We missed the mark. Times of mistake and regret and longing that can never be reconciled between those of flesh and blood. I find myself against one of those. In the end, my father and I are both guilty of the same thing – abandonment; the degree and timing of which is now suddenly and irrevocably irrelevant.
There’s a price to pay for turning the other cheek and never bothering to swivel back to check the direction from which you turned.
The tears will dry over time. But I’ll be left with this for the rest of my days: while I may have had no need for a Daddy for the last 40 years of my life, I now sadly know there was always room in my life for one more person.