Sunday, June 19, 2011

How I'd Love, Love, Love to Dance With My Father Again

Has it really been 16 years? Can it possibly have been that long since I saw his face, heard his voice, laughed at one of his impossibly cheesy jokes? Have I been The Girl Without a Father for 16 years of my life? At this point, he has been out of my life for much, much longer than he was in it. The pain should have subsided, yes? It shouldn't hurt anymore, not like it sometimes still does. But who gets to say how things like a father's death "should" feel? Maybe this is exactly how it should feel.

I did not know my father well enough to know whether I am anything like him. He was known for his sense of humor, & I like to think I have a bit of that in me. I know that he didn't like big dogs or tomatoes. I remember how much he loved "Home Improvement," & how he teased me for being unable to make that guttural throat noise that was Tim the Toolman Taylor's signature. I know that he once received three speeding tickets in three counties in one day & that he didn't like motorcycles because one of his childhood friends died riding one. I know that he could identify a car by everything but color just by seeing the shape of it underneath a tarp. I know he had funny nicknames for neighbors he secretly disliked & that carrot cake was his favorite dessert. I know that he had a handshake strong enough to be the subject of a eulogy & that he was my uncle's partner in viewings of Sylvester Stallone films. I know that he always wore a foam fish head on Halloween & that he once came to my Odyssey of the Mind competition in a wheelchair rather than miss it altogether. I know that when his high school friends were playing varsity sports, he was working an after-school job to support his family & that he later dropped out of college to financially support his alcoholic father.

I don't think about him as often as I ought to, but I feel his absence daily & deeply. I think of him when I see a shiny, old car drive down the road, top down, with a happy old man at the wheel. I think of him when I eat at Swenson's, the local drive-in where he took me after dance practice for a grilled cheese & an ice cream sundae. I think of him when I could benefit from fatherly advice but am unable to identify what that might have looked like, had he lived long enough to provide it. I wonder what he would have thought of adult-aged me & what sort of father-daughter relationship we might've had. Of course, I like to think we would have been close, but who can say?

I can recognize that I do not know who my father was, not really. But I know that he was a good man who didn't deserve the end he met - does anyone deserve to waste away like that, to succumb to cancer & leave behind a young wife & small child? Yes, I know that he was a good man who, 16 years after his death, is missed every day, in every way. His headstone reads, "One of the good guys," & that's exactly how I like to imagine him.

"A song for a heart so big, God wouldn't let it live."
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