That is to say, one day there was this possibility of meeting him. The next, he was gone. My mother broke the news to me as gently as she could. It came from a mutual friend of theirs, and so I remember the whole thing as being so impersonal.
We received news of his death after his funeral.
I have spent my life chasing a ghost, and have mourned him (in various ways) every day since 1994. I think both inwardly and outwardly I will always be a bit sad because of the toll that loss took at such an early age.
I have noticed that this sadness is appealing to certain types of men. My first marriage can attest to that, and although I now see that marriage as a necessary challenge I had to endure, I wonder if I would have made the choice to marry at nineteen years old had my father been there to help me see all the choices.
At nineteen years old. I wanted so badly to have the ideal family I felt I had been robbed of. This made me blind to reality, and the truth that we are all flawed, and some flaws make people hurt others, because in their minds, love isn’t love if it doesn’t hurt.
And so I fell in love and further away from my true self than ever. As I got older, and further away from his actual death, the mourning and sadness took a new form. I felt it like an ache, deep inside the muscle, one feels after running too hard, for too long.
It took me a while to realize what I felt was the pain of being robbed of an adult relationship many of my girlfriends have with their fathers. For years, whenever I had a friend who was more confident, secure, or grounded than I was, I credited it to her relationship with her father who built her up when the world would tear her down — and secretly, I resented her for it. This resentment has poisoned many relationships with the disease that is female competitiveness. The world just eggs it on, because if we are divided, we cannot destroy the forces in the world that are there to weaken a woman’s character.
And so, what now? It isn’t productive to remain a victim, or to blame grief for one’s pitfalls. I am now past the stage of blaming everyone possible, including my father for dying, because it got me nowhere. I still have his leather jacket, and a few pictures, and a wonderful relationship with my brother whom he fathered long before me. We are united in our loss, but also in the random traits we share that are from him: an adventurous spirit, a love of good food, jazz, art, and education. We also share gratitude for him for the gift of life.
There are times when I feel him helping or reaching out to influence my life from the other side. I hope it isn’t all in my head…
This past Christmas, I got a text from my brother that simply said, “The father-daughter relationship is eternal.” At first, I fell into that old familiar pattern of regret, longing, and self-pity. Then, I wondered if just maybe, my father sent me that message through my brother to help me see that he is always with me. They say that love is the one thing that doesn’t die. It can neither be destroyed or created. It always has been and always will be. For all who know the perpetual longing and heartbreak that comes from losing a parent, I hope that this much is true.