With Father's Day this weekend, I found my thoughts turning to you and reflecting on our relationship and how it's changed over the years. As with all long-term relationships, there have been highs and there have been lows, but I thought I'd chronicle and highlight some of the key memories for me in our shared lives.
When I was young, I proudly wore the title of "daddy's little girl". We'd trip around together doing whatever chores or errands needed to be done. If we were shoveling snow, you had a shovel just my size. If we were raking leaves, again you had one just my size. You even got me my own axe so I could help you cut the small branches off of the fallen trees. Mom was always so focused on the first born, but you were my pal and my teacher.
You are a fix-it-yourself kind of guy and all the time we had together was a learning experience. You taught me cool things - like how to change the engine in my VW Bug after I blew a rod through the block. I was proud to say that I knew how to bleed my own brakes, change my oil, gas and air filters and how to protect my cracked distributor cap so that my bug would start in the rain. I helped you rebuild the cam shaft on the Reliant K and other random automobile repairs. And the teaching didn't stop there. We soldered pipes (plumbing was your nemesis), fixed electrical things, fixed pool parts and repaired bathrooms. It didn't really seem like work either, although you did most of the heavy lifting.
The teen years were a bit difficult. Mom was sick all the time. You were at work all the time. I was up to no good, and you knew it. You tried to call me out, but due to lack of evidence, there was nothing you could prove. Mom with her naivete would force you to back down, and you did. Fortunately, even though Mom was right, I managed to keep myself good enough to move forward, graduate high school and then college. I found the right man and you quietly let me go. Oh how I cried at my wedding when we danced.
Miles have separated us since then - you in Connecticut and myself in California. Honestly I was glad to be away. You know the stress we were all dealing with - can you blame me? I didn't realize it at the time, but our relationship started to fade around then. I'd come back for holidays but it was always a whirlwind tour. I had to visit everyone so no one got very much of me.
Aside from lack of visiting time, I realize in hindsight that it was really because I used Mom as a crutch. She was the intermediary. I'd call her and she'd relay to you. She'd, in turn, relay back to me. We never spoke and I never realized it. I still felt in touch with your life. But then Mom died.
You tried to change. You tried to reach out, but it just wasn't you. Mom filled that role for too long. It's almost like I lost two parents instead of just one, and now we are here. Phone calls that are awkward and uncomfortable, and far too long in between. We talk on holidays because I call. You never call me. There are no birthday wishes for me or the kids. You've visited twice in nearly 18 years even though I've asked a million times. My kids don't know you and it's a shame because they could learn so much.
For a long time I was angry and upset, quite bitter actually. Then I was sad and disappointed. I'm not sure, but I think I'm almost at the point of acceptance. I will take what I can and be thankful for that. But Dad, there's still time. There's still time to get to know your grandchildren. There's still time to know the young woman (okay maybe not so young anymore) that I've become. We'll always be here if you decide.