It has been a little over a year since he passed; however, I lost my dad starting in 2003 as his health failed steadily and his demeanor changed drastically with each year thereafter. I was relieved when he died on March 19, 2011; relieved because his existence was merely that; a human body breathing in and out, heart pumping rhythmically, and day to day actions barely more than habit. However, a year later, I am now feeling the sadness of losing my dad for real.As I struggled with being the care-taker for my dad in 2003-2007, I cried and cried and cried and cried. I yelled. I screamed. I ran and duck for cover. Literally, when I heard the stair glide coming from the in-law apartment below, I ran and hid….until I heard the daily cry, “Rebecca? Rebecca? Where are you?” I would come out of my hiding spot, head cowered sheepishly as if my cover was blown. I watched my beloved father turn into a mean, nasty, angry, vile person as he plowed through years of medical issues, mostly from a life of neglect. I started grieving for the loss of my father in 2003, as I watched the dad that I had once known; the man who gave me so much in such a short time started dying within my heart. Instead of being angry with my dad for treating me so badly, I have found a way to focus on the good memories; the memories that piece me together into part of who I am today.
My father and I were very close. My mother was always spiteful of our close relationship. In fact, she declared the sole reason why my dad and I bonded is because the nurse handed me to him first after I was born. Over the years, my relationship with my dad grew more and more solid and concrete, especially in light of my mother’s undiagnosed mental illness and subsequent abusive behavior to me. My dad was my safe spot, my happy spot, my loving spot in an unstable world.My dad used to take me to work with him, often. I cherished these escapes from home because it meant I could truly be a kid all day. I had no agenda when I went to work with my dad. My unstructured day lead to hours of imaginative play and the comfort of knowing my dad was right there. My father’s role as Construction Superintendent afforded me unique opportunities – from riding scaffolding down the back ramp of the fire station he built in Tulsa, OK, to playing in the mason’s sand piles in Miami, OK, to riding my roller skates around the sidewalks at the retirement facility in Owasso, OK, to shopping next door to the massive church he built in Tulsa, OK; buying loads of flavored popcorn and fancy 1980s earrings to match my tween outfits. The drives to my father’s work sites were often in excess of one hour, so the music we sang along to during these long commutes are forever embedded in my brain cells and in my heart. I will always, always, always have a soft spot for Hostess Snowballs and Hershey Chocolate Milk; regardless of how healthy I continue to become – because that “food” was my breakfast on my special days accompanying my dad to work. I am emotionally handcuffed to the chocolately, marshmellowy, coconutty goodness of PINK snowballs for life.
My dad was my hero. He protected me from the outbursts, the beatings, and the instability of my mother’s moods. Obviously, with his long days at work, he could not always protect me from my mother’s rage – but I knew as soon as he came home I would be safe; he was my human shield.My dad had super high expectations for me; these expectations may explain some of my personality and/or behavior patterns today. After a failed marriage and four children prior to his marriage to my mother, I saw he intended to try and get it “right” with me. As much as my father was my hero, he put insanely high expectations on me – for example, I never dared bring home a report card with anything less than A’s on it for fear of disappointing him. He always expected me to do better. Always. Even if I had done the absolute best that I could possibly do on anything, he expected me to perform higher, better, and faster – there was no limit.
Being pushed beyond “normal” limits and expectations helped me to rise above the many challenges I have been afforded in my lifetime thus far. My hearing impairment for one; yes, the doctors did say I would never play sports, enjoy music and participate in activities the way you could have as a child. However, both of my parents expected, no - demanded me to blast by any obstacles. Not only could I play sports, I could play them better – I outran the boys on my soccer team, I earned that center forward spot. Not only could I enjoy music, I enjoyed all types of music and I made music by playing the flute. I did NOT have a disability, in fact, I had every…possible…ABILITY, and it was my expectation that I set out to prove it.However, at times, it was deflating to have a good performance and hear my dad say I could have done better. Many of you close to me will now understand why I constantly try to push myself harder, why I try to accomplish more, why I try to be better at everything than I was yesterday. I do not have my dad here to set these expectations anymore, so I set them myself. I set my expectations even higher than my dad set them for me. You have read my prior posts – I may be healthy, but in all of my Curvy Girl-ness, I can be healthier. It is not a sickness, this comes from within. It is how I am hard wired. It is my dad in me.
Certain songs come on these days; songs that trigger my many memories of riding in my dad’s pick-up truck across various states. I cannot walk past a box of Hostess Snowballs without a slight twinge of pain in my heart. My son has particular mannerisms that cause me to think my dad is still with us. The azaleas in full bloom trigger visual cues at every street corner, as those bright flowers were his favorite. My daughter ordering stuffed shells and proclaiming they are not as good as Grampa’s warms me emotionally.Looking into the mirror daily reminds me of my dad. I see blue eyes staring back at me that are eerily reminiscent of my dad’s blue peepers. His smile was warm, his smile links to mine.
I miss my dad.