Friday, June 10, 2016

How Much I Miss You: An Essay on Daughters and Dads

Dear Dad,

I've been meaning to sit down and write this to you for several weeks. Each time I sit down to write it, something else more "important" comes along and then I don't do it. So, I am going to do it now. (Remember how Grandma Lil - I mean, your mom - always had that mirror magnet on the refrigerator that said DO IT NOW ?? I never knew what that meant till now.)

So. Anyway... Lately I have been wanting to ask you your advice on a bunch of different things. Yes, yes, I know I am a big girl now at the ripe old age of 35, but, it's like, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING. Sometimes I wonder about you and wonder what you were doing and thinking about and worrying about when you were 35. I think you already had my brother but maybe you were a few years older when you had me? Huh.

Well, as you know, I am 35 and I still do not have any kids of my own. As you also know, this has always been a struggle for me. I mean, do you remember that one time when that one guy dumped me right before I was supposed to go to his sister's wedding and you came over to my apartment in Uptown and we walked around Lake Calhoun? I remember that we stopped by the food shack there and you bought us each a hot dog and a chipwich ice cream sandwich and then you took out your flip phone and took a photo of the sunset. Later you took that photo and printed it out and wrote a quote about how god always loves me and the angels are watching down on me...

I remember at the time I was a little embarrassed when you gave that to me because I was surprised to read something so "religious" but now I think I get what you meant. Anyway. I think that back then when we did that walk around Lake Calhoun I was only about 26 or something and even THEN I was hot to trot on the gravy train to get married and have kids.

As you know, I mean, as I think you knew?? I did get married. And then I got unmarried. I think you knew he was a good guy (he is) but I was never able to hear your side of the story on that, Dad. I mean, I dated a few guys who you met but, as you know, you could never fully tell me what you thought of them.

[I'm sorry I keep writing "as you know."]

Lately I have been spending a lot of time in your basement and I find all of your old notes to yourself. Vocabulary flashcards, business meeting items, scribbles on the furnace... Dad, hey, why did you keep all of those old magazines? The reason I ask is because, one time, I think it was in January of 2012 on the night before your first grandson was born, I SWEAR you were trying to spell out that there was THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLARS IN THE BASEMENT. The nurses said you were probably just in pain or it was the medication, but, anyway. The reason I ask is that my boyfriend and I like to go to antique shops and it seems like if I did some research I could sell some of those things you kept, but. I don't know.

I never know which stuff of yours I am supposed to keep and which things I am supposed to throw away. Anything that has your handwriting on it is like gold to me. One time I found a letter that you wrote to my brother, and you filled it with all those sayings your mom used to say.

  • If you are at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.
  • The bulldog wins cause he doesn't let go (is that how it goes?)
and then in the letter you gave him a bunch of advice about life. I made a photocopy of that letter and I keep it with me always. Sometimes I read it and I wish that you had written it to me, but I think you and I were such buds that we never needed to write notes to each other. 

Which brings me back to this note, Dad. I don't know how to get answers or advice to all these super big life questions (where to live, what to do for work, should I start a family, how do I take care of the family, should I get ANOTHER dog). 

The thing I struggle with is that, even though I know you are still with me, I do not know how to make you appear and just tell it to me straight when I really need you to. The other day I went to Purgatory Park to talk with you, and when I asked (demanded) that you, for once, actually appear as a floaty ghost, you didn't show up. But then, as I walked back home with the dog, I met a man named Charlie and he had Grandpa's hands and he pretty much answered all of my questions. I was so convinced, Dad, that I almost bought a frickin house that day.

Which brings me to point number 37c. (ha, remember when we would stay up and talk into the wee hours and then we would joke about all the conversations we had open? That is the good stuff, dad. I know so few people in my life, especially dad-types, who can do that with me). Anyway.

I don't know how to get advice from you when I really, really, REALLY need it. I just don't. Maybe I am just going to have to stop that habit of mine where I look to you, but I can't. I don't think I can stop doing that, dad.

I always knew that I was lucky to have you. I knew that I had the best dad and I even shared you with my friends (e.g. softball coaching) cause I knew that not everyone is as lucky to have such a great dad.

But, lately I've realized something. 

I think that I get it now how you were lucky to have me, too. I spend a lot of time taking care of your grandsons (and now you have a baby granddaughter!) It is humbling, comforting, and terrifying all at the same time to witness the deep wisdom in a 4-year-old or a 2-year-old. I spend time with your grandsons and I see how smart they are, and how sensitive they are, and how brave they are and how funny and talented they are.

I find comfort in them. I find comfort in comforting them. And that is when it hits me that you must have felt the same way when you were with me. All those nights sitting out on the deck, or up at the cabin, or walking (taking a "stroll") together. 

The comfort I was getting from you as my dad, you must have been getting the same comfort from me as your daughter.

So, hate to be demanding here, D, but it's like, I still want you to comfort me. Was it OK that I gave up your Beetle? I thought you would want me driving a convertible, just like you did. Was it OK that I fought with Mom when she thought I was making some decisions that I just went ahead and made anyway? Is it OK that I have no idea what I am doing, Dad? Is it??

I cry as I write this because, no matter who reads this, even if God is my editor, I still cannot seem to get you to appear as a blond Dad in khakis and a yellow Polo sweater and sit down for a Dad / Daughter chat. 

Not having that power (and I even own my own crystal ball now!) of not having that power to DEMAND that you appear and help me out with my life is frustrating for me. It is frustrating for me to be fully aware that we are but human beings because Dad, you were my PERSON. Mine. My guy. My Advisor. My CEO. I get it that you are now only sitting as Chairman of the Board but I still need you dad. I still need you and I am not going to go down without a pout that it SUCKS to not have you here.

Ok, sorry, that got a little whiny. I just - I just need you to know that I still need you now just as much as I needed you when I wiped out on my waterskis or that time when I caught the softball wrong and my fingernail got bent back. 

I truly do hope that you are enjoying the peace / comfort / clarity that you struggled so hard to uncover. I hope you know that through your own struggle and through your candid testament to me, you helped me with the challenges in my own life. I hope I do the same for your grandchildren now.

You know, Dad, perhaps the answers to all these "Important Questions" are not even all that important. Because, we know we are good - you and me - and maybe I should just take a deep breath and continue dancing with you now.

Ok, let's change it to a new record. Let's listen to Fats Domino now.

Oh! And, Happy Father's Day.


  1. Thanks for sharing, Susan. Love reading your blog and am always in awe of how you share so openly and eloquently. This one really got to me. Your dad would be so proud of you! xoxo Tina

  2. Thank you, Tina!! ❤️πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ‘ΈπŸΌ