On My Father’s Birthday

Today my father would have been 69 years old. It’s hard for me to write beyond that. I’ve been thinking about it all day, but somehow the thoughts and emotions get tangled in my brain and nothing coherent seems to come out. Everything I want to say seems too complicated, or too simple, or too general, or too intimate. 

It has been nine years since my father left this world. When he died, I was 24. I was just beginning adulthood. I was not yet married, not yet a mother, not yet really the woman I would become. I’m still not, I guess. 

I wonder sometimes, especially on days like today, how my dad would feel about the life I live now. He would be proud, I’m absolutely sure. He was always proud of his daughters. He would love my sons, his grandsons. He would boast about them to anyone who would listen. To those he came in contact with, they would be the smartest, most attractive, most advanced children who ever lived. 

But this thought is dangerous, because once I start, the floodgates open. How would things have been different if he had lived? Would we all still be where we are now? It’s a dangerous thought because, even after nine years, even after nine birthdays gone by, the one thing I want more than anything else is to have him back. To have my Daddy back in my life. Even if changing the past would change my glorious present, I feel as if I would do anything to reverse that one day.

Thinking that one thought, ‘what if I could have him back?’ brings back all the pain, rough and raw and intense, that I felt when I found out I would never see him again. Each day since, it has become easier to live life without him and so I avoid thinking of how much I miss him and how much I loved him and what his smile looked like and the sound of his voice. But I realize too, that by avoiding this I have let him slip away. It is more and more difficult to remember the real man that my father was. He was amazing and he was difficult. He smoked too much. He drank instant Folger’s coffee and ate Oreos every morning. He was often pessimistic and yet, at the same time, always hopeful that things would be better. 

Today, on what would have been his 69th birthday, I want to remember him; remember the real man. I want to remember my dad, who yelled at me and who always made sure to kiss me goodbye. I want to be sure that I can always remember what it sounded like when he said my name and I want to try to pass on what he was really like to the grandsons who will never have the benefit of hearing him say theirs.

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