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a conversation with my dad

June 18, 2011

Happy father’s day daddy.  I wish I could have this conversation with you in person.  I wish I could make a little present for you.  It would probably include a homemade card and maybe a jar of extra spicy homemade salsa with some crispy-salty tortilla chips.  I know how you loved spicy food.

You got sick before I got well.  Our relationship didn’t have time to mature before you left.  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for so many things.  I’m sorry I was unable to live my life in the present tense those early years and participate with you fully as your daughter.  I didn’t feel much of my life back then.  But I have grieved since, for losing you and for losing so much of me.

I learned this very unusual thing from a cancer patient who underwent surgery to remove a mass from his brain.  He showed a before-and-after scan of his head and it was amazing to see a completely empty place in his skull where the tumor had been prior to the surgery. 

This example is the closest thing I can think of to describe loss.  The place that you had in my life, as ill defined as it seemed when I was 28 years old, was a place with some absolute boundaries.  And that place is now merely an empty spot.

But I see you from time to time passing across my brother’s face.  His brow.  A certain look in his eye.  I feel you constantly in my head at work when I’m trying to solve a new problem.  I am so blessed that I received the best from you and mommy.  I appreciate the absolutes of mathematics (you) and spend much of my time at work trying to give numbers a voice through rich illustrations (mommy) so they can be more widely accessible and understood by a broader audience.

Looking back, I see you for the human that you were.  A decent, hardworking man of principle; a man of his word.   A man that loved and was completely devoted to his wife.  A man who found it difficult to deal with emotional conflict, who retreated instead of interacting during times of stress.  A man who did not understand how to share power in the delicate balance of family dynamics.  A man who did not hesitate to express feelings of love. 

You were a good, good man, daddy.  I have some of the same flaws that I saw you struggle with.  It’s scary to be present in a marriage during times of fear and uncertainty.  I have your tendencies to want to retreat too but am finally aware I need to force myself to stay and live the lesson that is unfolding.   

And this isn’t an indictment of human frailty.  It is with humility that I acknowledge my human frailties, and yours, and it is with gratitude that I recognize the struggles you endured as a husband and father that enabled me to learn some important lessons about living my own life with the stresses that come with adulthood. 

The difficulty is in letting go of the past, the noise, the shame of my mistakes.  I know in my heart that you loved me and that knowledge grounds me.  Thank you daddy.

On this father’s day, if I could, I would tell you that I appreciate you.  And I love you.  Maybe I just did. 

circa – 1956-1957.

Wishing a happy father’s day to all dads. 

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2011 8:15 pm

    Oh, Diane. What a lovely post. But so, so poignant. You poor love. I’m so sorry that your father passed away leaving you so much unresolved. How hard that must be for you.

    Big, big hugs to you,


  2. June 19, 2011 9:49 am

    Diane, lovely post…I lost my Dad 10 years ago and I often talk to him in my head…I feel him especially close whenever I’m in the garden…he would just love all the peonys here in England…I’m sorry that you obviously feel so sad at his loss. Hugs Robx

  3. June 19, 2011 8:51 pm

    very sweet… you did get the best from your parents! ILY

  4. June 24, 2011 10:53 pm

    This is so touching, Diane. I can feel a bit of your love for your dad and your loss just reading it.

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