If you had asked me ten years ago what I thought of my dad, I’d have told you, through heartache and great, heaving sobs, that as far as I could tell, my dad was dead; and that there was a strange man walking around out there in the world, occupying his body, but I didn’t know him, and never again would I lay eyes on him. My father, as I knew him, was gone.
In the winter of 2006, just six months after Daryl and I got married, I lost my dad. Not to death, but to another life – another family, another set of grown children. It was exactly what he wanted, and what I begged and implored him to reconsider for months. Eventually, I gave up, and our relationship ended. But in the years that followed, I couldn’t even get through that one dad-syllable without breaking down.
We’d spent my entire lifetime in bliss – then in the blink of an eye, he jumped off that proverbial cliff, hopped in a boat, and paddled away, not looking back even for a moment.
I learned how to get through life without my father, and worked to rebuild myself as best I could under the circumstances. His absence rippled throughout every corner of my life, though – I cried out of being terrified as to whether or not I should ever have kids of my own someday, and I cried out of uncertainty as to who’d pump up my bike tires for me when they got flat. I cried over who’d help me fix my computer when I had network problems, and I cried when friends and loved ones tried dissecting what happened, leaving us all just as bewildered as we were to begin with. I was a mess of pieces roughly patched back together.
Little did I know, though, that nearly a decade later, long after my dad disappeared along the horizon, he’d paddle back. Mind you, he was still anchored to his second life, but that was okay. He wrote an e-mail that I couldn’t have worded better if I’d tried – he said all the things I’d needed and that I only ever daydreamed about. I don’t know what prompted it, or where all those words came from since he’d been a brick wall for so long, but I didn’t care. I read that e-mail right before James Taylor walked on stage at a show I was at, and I wept. (As if I wouldn’t have anyway. James Taylor.)
We’re all okay. He came back for us; for his three daughters, and for his two granddaughters, whom he’d never even laid eyes upon. And after so many years, after so much energy expelled and so many tears lost, I was grateful to shed my shell and let that man back in to my life.
I am one of a very lucky few who has had the opportunity to raise a loved one from the dead.
Happy Father’s Day to this man who’s put me through the wringer, and who’s responsible for some my most profound joy and deepest despair. We’ll never be quite the same as we always were, but we’re doing just fine all the same.