To know my dad is to know his demented, yet genius view of human nature. He showed uncanny methods of connecting with others, yet once accepted by them, he had built a friendship for life. I now understand what his inconsistent and conflicted portrayal of “living life to the fullest” means. He often spoke through anecdotes with hidden value, yet always spoke the truth, no matter how tormenting to hear.
I wasn’t raised in the same house as my dad, and the regular Saturday and Wednesday overnights eventually turned into sporadic hourly visits in my teenage and adult years. Yet, my dad’s presence was always a constant. I’ve endearingly referred to him in my adult life, as my only stable figure. The one person who wouldn’t judge or lecture, and would never disappoint. As a little girl, my dad showed up for every event, small or large, whether invited or with his public eccentricity not especially welcomed.
I struggled with the reality of my broken home and wasted precious lifetime feeling sorry for myself and my upbringing. My regret now is not having a crystal ball when I was 8 years old to show me the indescribable lessons he would teach me that would only resonate when I was ready in my adulthood.
Although my dad’s dementia was clear to others, I was the closest to him, yet the last to see it; or accept it. It wasn’t until I could no longer make excuses for him aloud without recognizing my own nonsensical excuses, like when he left the gas stove on all day with my children in the house, or when he got into a car and took a ride with a stranger. I finally accepted the involuntary force that pulled him into a world of cognitive dissonance.
I was so angry as I watched my dad slowly slip away and find his permanence in the past. And then, I began to see a whole new life’s perception. My dad could’ve chosen to perseverate on what could’ve been, and he could’ve chosen to be resentful; he had the right to be angry at the world.
When I finally accepted the loss of my dad, on a cognitive level, I gradually learned to support the faulty memories of his own life, and mine. I began to embrace his unconscious choice to recall the beautiful, positive, and overall happy moments. Whether within his cognitive control or not, my dad found a way to negate the hardships I know he had or the sadness and disappointment he felt so many times. He became my inspiration when he only spoke lovingly about those in his life and fondly about his experiences.
As a little girl, my dad was my life’s foundation. He always exuded this spirituality, although not religious; and the look in his eyes said he knew what I was feeling. I never had to say it. The kind of father/daughter love that every girl dreams of.
I’ve experienced a cycle of emotions that compare to grief, although my dad is still here. And as I teased out the confusion and the anger, I learned of his newest diagnosis: aggressive cancer; the evil cells that invaded his body and have been there for so long. His limited short term memory made it impossible for him to articulate the signs that would’ve helped if we knew much earlier. The stages of emotion I confronted upon hearing this news was unfathomable.
My dad; my loving, unique, creature of lunacy. This additional tragedy that has unfairly been exposed upon him has taught me a new lesson. I learned a new essence of life. One where we make the conscious choice to only allow those with positivity, with genuine warmth, and love into our lives. Our life’s moments are too precious and much too delicate for anything less to penetrate the beauty of our soul. And dad, I believe this is what you always wanted me to learn. You may not have wished this method of sharing a life’s lesson, but you are the most wonderful man to ever enter my life. I wish nothing less than the unconventional and unconditional love you gave me to every little girl. Thank you.
“If you learn to listen for clues as to how I feel instead of what I say, you will be able to understand me much better.” -Mara Botonis, When Caring Takes Courage.