I am my father’s daughter.
The proof is in my face, an undeniable carbon copy of his own but in a slightly softer female form. It is in my fierce opinions, my quick flashes of temper and impatience, and my tendency to find humor in strange places. It is in my predisposition to feel sentiment deeply and cry easily. My dad and I both tear up at the drop of a hat. I give him shit about it, but I have the same problem. I secretly think it’s one of his sweetest, most endearing qualities.
My dad has been my only active parent since I was barely twelve, and the road has not been an easy one. I know now that raising an angry, motherless, depressed teenage girl cannot have been fun for a single father. At the time I of course thought only of my own rage at him not understanding me. He was my sole source of support but I hated him at times for not knowing how to help me feel better.
As I became older, I settled down and so did our relationship. We had our struggles but he was always the person I talked to in my times of need. When I moved across the country to California, we made a trip out of it. We had an adventure of sorts, driving through states neither of us had ever seen before. When he flew home, leaving me out there on my own with no job to my name and barely any friends, I cried my eyes out. I’d never felt as alone as I did then. I missed him horribly.
This is the running theme of our visits. He may drive me a bit crazy when we’re together, as family often does, but there’s never an instance when we take leave of each other without some sadness on my end. I’ve grown up and learned that I can survive much more than I ever knew. I’ve learned that I will endure – and hopefully survive – many future obstacles. The one that I fear most is losing my father.
I know that my inner softness is my strength. I challenge myself to remain kind and loving in difficult times. Still, my emotions often prove to be my downfall. I’ve nearly let a few romantic relationships ruin me entirely, but instead pivoted the pain in order to strengthen and grow. It could’ve gone either way, but I reached deep down inside and found some primal, unconscious instinct to survive.
I’m scared that I won’t have that strength when it is my dad’s time to go. It’ll happen eventually no matter how desperately I will it away. I’m afraid that my inner vulnerability will eat me up and consume me whole. I can’t even entertain the thought without collapsing into helpless crying fits. I’m aware that this isn’t love on my part but instead selfishness. It’s a need for someone to lean on, the one person in my life who accepts me exactly as I am. The one person in my life who is always there for me no matter what I say or do.
Until he isn’t there anymore.
It’s a lot of pressure to put on any one relationship, and I believe that a parent-child relationship is perhaps the only kind that can withstand the burden. I know that some don’t. I know I’m lucky to have such a close relationship with a parent at all. My dad is my best friend. I know that some children never get that, and having it, I’m all the more terrified to lose it.
I hate seeing my dad’s mortality because it reminds me that one day the inevitable will happen. I hate watching him grow older, and I become impatient with his recent lapses in memory and attention because it scares me. I just took him to Costa Rica with me as a belated 60th birthday present. As I sit on my flight home writing this, I know that trip was as much a gift for myself as it was for him. I wanted to give him a unique adventure that I know he appreciated, but I just as keenly wanted to give myself an unforgettable memory of quality time with him. A memory to hold close to my heart with all the others someday when memories are all I have left of him.
I am my father’s daughter, and as my father’s daughter, I will not let grief slay me. In my darkest times, when he’s no longer there to talk me through my anguish, I’ll listen to his voice whispering wisdom in my head. I’ll remember that he was always proud of me and always loved me. I’ll remember what he gave me and sacrificed for me. I’ll refuse to crumble, because he would want me to stand strong. He would want me to breathe and laugh and snatch everything I want from life with fearless joy.
He would want me to finally love myself the way he loves me.