Well, it’s here. I don’t know if I ever thought this day would come. 15 years. It’s been 15 years since I last felt my dad’s hug. 15 years since I heard him sing “Mares Eat Oats,” and watched his eyes crinkle as he cracked up. When he died, I didn’t think I’d be able to go on. I didn’t think I’d be able to love again or laugh, and I certainly did not think I could ever have a child – because she would not know my dad. And then a wise man told me – your father will know your daughter before you do. She will come to you, still warm from his arms. And I was comforted.
Today, I don’t feel comfortable. I miss him. I wish he could spend time with my daughter and hear her tell a joke and give her one of his crazy hawa-raspberry kisses he used to give me. If he were here, he would scold me for not taking better care of myself and praise me for being a good mama, and he would hug me no matter what.
My dad was born in 1924. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and he shouldn’t have made it. But he did. He brought home a purple heart and a set of US Army-issued dog tags I wear with pride. He survived a horrific war, against enormous odds, and found the strength to go on and thrive. He had me and all of my brothers and sisters, and he was PRESENT. He didn’t live in the past. He worried about the future, of course, but he allowed himself to indulge in the present. He snuggled the babies and danced with my mom whenever Glenn Miller played. He sang old radio novelty songs and, even when I was 25 years old, grabbed my hand to cross a parking lot. He taught me that mistakes are what make us who we are, and, without them, we would be boring. He taught me to be honest, and he taught me how to pray.
The curse of having an incredible father is the intense, soulful pain of not having him forever. I once knew a little girl who, when teased, would say “That hurts me in my feelings.” Not being able to talk to my dad and rest my head on his chest and feel his arms around me hurts me in my feelings. It makes my guts twist and my eyes storm, and it doesn’t go away. It abates at times and I can put it in a closet for a bit, but it doesn’t go away. 15 years sounds like a long time, but it feels like he was just here.