I tried to go to bed. But I couldn’t sleep. Then I was revisited by a thought I had shuffled away earlier. Earlier today, earlier this weekend, I can’t really remember when I had it, but it came back. When I think about my dad, I think of having him back that one last time, to pour out all of the things I wanted to say. Or I think of how I had him and never really… had him. Didn’t spend time with him the way I should have. Which is not to say we didn’t spend time together. But I’ve changed so much and grown so much, and I feel like I’m a different person, and this person, he didn’t know her the way I want him to.
I spend so much time thinking of having him back just one last time. But earlier, and now, I’m struck with the thought of having him back for life. Not one intense, emotional and meaning-packed capsule of time. For days. Months. Years. The years we could have had. I want to call home this weekend and hear him answer. To hear him say, “Hi, Lady!” with the warm every day sort of joy in his voice that says, “This isn’t a special occasion, but it’s special all the same, because I love you.” The next words would be, “You want to talk to Mom?” not because I didn’t want to talk to Dad, but because of course it was Mom I needed to talk to. She’d be the one to help hammer out logistics for my next trip home. She’d be the one to have all the family and neighborhood gossip. Dad would plunk himself back down in front of the television, secure in the knowledge that his baby girl had put in her weekly phone call, was alive and sounded happy, and would call again next week. Would be home a few weekends from now. And that was time enough for everything. I want that back.
But I do want more. I do want the chance to spend time getting to know him like I never did, and letting him get to know the person I’ve become. He loved to shock me with his profanity and his off-color jokes. How would he react if I spun some of it back to him? What would he think of this me who doesn’t mind admitting to being the most fabulous person in the room? Daddy and I, we had good banter. It would be even better now, now that I’ve found my feet, gotten a little cocky, and am no longer afraid to be unrestrainedly… myself. I feel like he’d see the woman he always knew I could be, and that as proud as he always was of me, he’d be even more proud, and happy in my happiness.
I want to feel like I belong again. Going to Momo’s for Thanksgiving Sunday, it was great to see them all, but I feel so out of place among them. The women, they’re all married, domestic, settled, except for my sister, and I actually spent the most time with her and her boyfriend. Different as they are from me, I felt most at home with them. And with my mom. The truth is, I know I belong, but I’m not sure where I fit, so I ended up following Mom and Brooke around a bit, and trying to hide my being awkward. At one point I even wandered into the room where the men were shooting the breeze, but I didn’t fit there either. But that’s where Daddy would have been. And if he’d been there, I would have fit where he was. I would have walked over and pulled up the chair next to his, and he would have said, “Hey, Baby-doll!” and put his arm across the back of my chair, and I could have sat and said nothing. Just listened to them talk, and not felt out of place. I would have felt more fit in than ever, with the new knowing myself and the old sitting at Daddy’s side. Because after all, knowing myself has been mostly realizing how much like him I am. Sure maybe I wouldn’t see him any more often than I did back then. But I want those every-so-oftens back. I want back not heart-wrenching moments of making the most of time, but the comfortable assumption that the time will always be there to be made the most of.
I so want to just spend that sort of time with him, slowly continuing to grow up and grow and grow old together as father and daughter, slowly sharing with him who I am now. But who I am now… When I look back, I know I am who I am now because he died. That his leaving us was the kick in the stomach that jolted me out of the self-defeating, self-effacing, self-denying rut I was in. I hate that it took that, but I have to admit I might not have gotten my act together without his death. And while I know that he would have given everything for my happiness, it sucks so bad that he would have been so thrilled to have stayed around and seen the gift he gave me by his leaving.
Perhaps that should have been my first clue that the Fates had begun to weave this tremendous, sticky, stifling web of irony that seems to have engulfed my life. Daddy helped me get it together, and would be so proud of the person I am now, only the only reason I’m this person I am now is because he died. I was married for four years and only wanted kids in the theoretical sense, and now that I’m divorced, the hormones have kicked over and make that far off wish a physical demand that I have no way of appeasing. I finally love myself completely, am thrilled about who I am, after years of trying to be someone I wasn’t, but thought I should be, and all those years it was easy to find guys interested in that person I was trying to be. Now that I’m someone I love completely, and I feel like I can give my heart more fully than ever before, I can’t for the life of me find a real relationship.
There are things I don’t want to go back to. I can say I wish my father hadn’t died, but I don’t have it in me to wish I was still the person I was before his death. I can only say I wish I’d learned it some other way, but would I have? Existential paradox aside, though, I want my father back. And for once I’m not asking for that “just one more day” crap. I can’t have him. I can’t. But if I’m going to beg for the impossible, I’m going to be unabashedly greedy. I don’t want one more day. I want years and years, wrinkles and gray hair, decades, the rest of a real, not-cut-off-short, long healthy life.
Not so I can squeeze every last drop out of every minute. But so I can let every minute ripen in its own time and fall into my hand like a blessing freely given, not clutched at and wrung dry. I want to call home this weekend for Mom, like I try to do every week, and hear his voice like it used to be. To say, just like I’d said it the week before, and would say it the next week, and for all the weeks of my life, the weeks I always thought I’d have…
“Hi, Dad! It’s me!”