My relationship with my father hasn’t always been a good one. It hasn’t been terrible. For most of my life it just wasn’t much of anything. Growing up, my memories of him are mostly of where and when he wasn’t. He worked away from home or on shifts that made him sleep the day away. It seemed to me that money and bosses were more important that I was, and for a long time I accepted that as the way things were supposed to be. When I realized that was a lie, I got angry. I spent several years being quietly very angry at my dad. Angry that he wasn’t there. Angry that I wasn’t a priority to him. Angry that he thought he knew me when he didn’t.
Several years ago my dad injured his knee and was unable to work. He spent a year and a half, pretty much, staying at home and completely changing the schedules and lives of the rest of the family. It was quite disruptive at first. At first I didn’t like it one bit. I had my life organized, thank you, and this was upsetting all of my carefully built walls and orders. But, like many things that I find upsetting, it was the beginning of something necessary. Something good.
I was forced to decide whether or not I wanted a relationship with this man who had helped to give me life. I had to decide whether I wanted him to know who I was now, the woman I was becoming. At first I wasn’t sure. I didn’t trust that he would stick around – he hadn’t before – and I didn’t want to invest in something that was going to end in me being abandoned yet again. I was angry and resentful and had more than my fair share of grudges.
I’m so thankful that I chose to begin a relationship with my father. I have discovered so much. I knew that he didn’t know me – but I didn’t know how much I didn’t know him. I had been told all my life how much wisdom my father had – but I had doubted or simply taken it for granted. I didn’t know how much I need his voice in my life.
When my dad taught me how to drive, he sat in the passenger seat and cleaned his fingernails. He was so certain that I knew enough of what I was doing to keep us both alive and on the road. His calm was infectious and gave me the confidence I needed to remain calm and relaxed myself. He’s still like that about the things I face in life. When I first realized that I loved S., I freaked out. I called to talk to my mom but she wasn’t home, so I ended up talking to my dad. His voice was the one I needed in that moment. I needed to hear that I wasn’t crazy, that there was no such thing as a time schedule when it came to love, that love was scary and that it wasn’t all supposed to be rainbows and pastel clouds…that me crying about being in love was okay. He told me that emotions can be overwhelming and can come out in bizarre ways – that crying for happiness wasn’t stupid. He told me that my instincts for physical lines were good, and put into words the things I am trying to achieve in the physical aspects of my relationship.
He is so calm, so trustful that my own instincts and abilities will kick in when I need them to. He is so sure that I will hear God’s voice and obey it. That he doesn’t need to be God’s voice for me. That I will figure out this crazy thing called life and love on my own. And at the same time, he doesn’t take a backseat to my life and keep his wisdom to himself. He still wants to be involved, to know where I’m at and what I’m dealing with. He wants to share his life with me.
My dad has been so open with where he screwed up as a father. He has heard my pain and anger and accepted that it is his fault – and cried with me. I have seen my father cry with regret at the things that he didn’t do. I have seen my father cry with the pain of loss, the pain of being hurt. He has shown me that it is okay to cry. It takes strength to cry.
My dad left a safe job and followed a calling. He didn’t give up when every logical voice told him his dream was unattainable, that he was causing his family hardship. He didn’t give up even when he began to believe those voices. He stuck it out – and is now working at a job he loves. He has been such an inspiration to me. When I could have followed the safe path, chosen a career that would have promised a steady income and constant work, his example helped me to take the scary leap of faith and jump headlong onto a path that I love, a vocation instead of a job, a journey that will be hard and won’t make me rich but that feeds my soul like nothing else I know. His example and his support have made it possible for me to do this – and have kept me from quitting when it all seems impossible.
I love my dad so much. He has shown me how not to live – money isn’t everything and family is so much more important. He has shown me that anyone can change – it is scary and it does hurt but the rewards are great. He has shown me how to love. He has shown me how to run. How to fight and how to laugh and how to cry. How to see God and that it is okay to rage against Him. His journey has been so integral to my own, so influential and eye opening and humbling and joyous. I don’t know how I would be able to live without him there, quietly and proudly supporting me, his daughter whom he loves.
I love you, Dad.
Don’t you dare go away from me yet.