It Didn’t Start That Way
My parents married when my mother was 17 and my dad was 22 years of age. After 32 years of marriage my mother found herself without her husband and life partner, and at 31 years old just 6 days shy of turning 32 I became fatherless. For a long time, I did not think of myself as fatherless. As I was listening to an interview about fatherless daughters, midway through the interview I realized I fit the description. I began processing the interview as if there was something in it for me. Until that instant, the portrayal of fatherless daughters was of a girl or woman who has never had a father in their lives. Losing my father to cancer, I was able to rationalize that having him at peace would be better than him suffering so my status didn’t matter.
It took some time before the emotional damage of his loss became apparent. Emotions were not my strong suit anyway so there was no surprise when I shed a few tears and focused more on the business of our loss. I assisted with preparing for the funeral services and consoled my family members. I took post as “the” protector, it was a natural progression since my dad was gone and I am the oldest. It was two weeks later when I pulled into my garage and reality hit. I cried uncontrollably with the thoughts of not having one of the two people (my parents) who were always there for me unconditionally. I knew life as I knew it was changed forever and for the second time I couldn’t fix it. The first time was after his diagnosis. What is a girl to do?
I was devastated but duty called. I was as a single mother with two children 10 years and 18 months old. I worked every day and took care of my household. I filled my time with the busyness of life. It was for the best because I was numb anyway. Before long, I began to slowly see the consequences of his death unravel the lives of the people around me. We used to crack jokes about daddy being a control freak, but the truth was he was our covering. He kept the lid on things no one else could and he was one of the glue sticks that kept our family members (not just his wife and children) together. People looked to him for truth, guidance, and support. His funeral was filled with friends and co-workers who spoke of his wisdom. There were grown men having emotional break downs because he was gone. I didn’t stand a chance and soon the revelation was no longer a thought but a certainty.
I was sad. I wish I could say it with a strong descriptive tone, but I can’t. I was sad to the point that I just wanted to go away for a while and I couldn’t. My life was on lock dealing with external issues and just like my father many people depended on me to be the rock. I carried the weight of my life, others’ lives, and my pain like a drenched coat with bricks in the lining. I continued to do what I always did take care of others. I didn’t ask for help because I didn’t know to. I would have good days and bad days but the void of missing my father was creeping into my soul.
Life started becoming heavy. I wasn’t usually someone who couldn’t handle life events. I had an uncanny way of taking life as it came, the ease of life was becoming a blur. I found myself stuck on repeat saying things like, “if my daddy was here this wouldn’t happen”. My advice to someone else would have been, “he didn’t leave you on purpose, if he had a choice he would still be here with you”. Knowing those truthful words in my core didn’t help with my feelings. I knew better and that made it worse for me. I wasn’t accustomed to being in my feelings and that caused a spiral I was not equipped for. I would just stay in my head about his illness and about how much me and children were going to miss. I am big on healing from within, I began by turning people away who were capable of figuring out their own lives. I also researched about grief and loss.
The symptoms of the loss, from the research did not match all of mine, but I could relate to some. Father’s Day wasn’t that bad, but my birthday was. Several years prior to my father’s death he would give me a birthday party and year of his death I had to have a celebration of a different kind. I had he reverse effect of some of the documented warning signs of a fatherless daughter. I didn’t look for affirmation or perfection from a man, I looked for unconditional love. I didn’t love with a kung fu grip, I loved loosely because I knew that I may not have the person forever. As crazy it may sound, the very truth I loved about life was the source of my pain. I allowed the process of healing by owning every feeling. I looked at life and his death the same but with more acceptance. Truth began to soothe me again. The process took a long time, and yes, I still have days when I long to have him give his great big teethy smile or to have him talk deep with about our life findings. I’ve gone back to the quiet man quotes and now I am the one who has the teethy smile, but mine is of remembrance.
Quotes from my father:
“People don’t hurt you they educate you”
“You can’t follow someone who does not know where he is going”
“If you know where you are going, then everything and everyone else will fall off in due time”
“Some people can’t love you unless they have something over you”
“Listen folks are telling you who they are and what they do”
“Don’t dismiss anything in their movement”
“Words and Actions should line up if not let it go”
I do miss my father, I have chosen to embrace everything he stood for while moving full speed ahead with his memories in tow. I am blessed to have had him for 31 plus years. The years were the vehicle that allows me to pass the teachings from my father to my three sons. Nothing is lost in life unless we think that it is. I am a fatherless daughter, no, I can’t change that. My dad said during his battle, “from the day I was born I was given an expiration date that I can not change; therefore, I chose to live until I die”. He did just that and it is all we can ever do. Life is full of challenges but none of them have to weigh us down to the point that we forget to live life for ourselves..
Women’s Lifestyle Editor