“Dad…” That three-letter word promises so much, but lacks a certain effect for me. Even the six-lettered synonym, father, fails as the proper salutation. I want to be proper and exact whenever I address you, so I just call you by your name because “dad” or “father” implies a knowing—a familiarity with each other that is only achieved through relationship. Which we do not have.
Of course, I know your appearance: complexion smooth and dark like mahogany, slender and tall but you tend to slouch your shoulders. Maybe due to years as a builder and construction worker. In fact, in one of my earliest memories of seeing you in person, my young eyes had the longest journey to the top of your head. You appeared as tall as the sky! I probably wondered if you picked me up would my fingertips be able to touch the edges of the night sky or handpick the star with the brightest twinkle.
That was then. Now that I’m older, we are almost shoulder-to-shoulder with each other. I am my mother’s only child, but I am your first born. And you can tell a tree by the fruit it bears; your dark brown, almond-shaped eyes are my own. The way the corners of your mouth turn up when you smile and the angle of your jawline—probably the result of crooked front molars—were passed onto me.
Even to a stranger, your South Carolinian, low-country dialect is still detectable when you pronounce certain words (despite your living in Georgia longer than I’ve been alive). I could hear the blended cadence, which made it easy to distinguish your voice on the other end when I answered your calls. I would accuse you of infrequent contact, but we didn’t toss the blame on each other of who should call whom more. That would not happen until much later…
I used the sharp edge of my tongue to point out, “I’m your daughter, and I’ve always called—in addition to traveling two hours to visit you without reciprocity!”
“I’m the oldest,” you countered with a stubbornness I recognize as my own, “and the young should check on the old.” Without either of us giving in, you promise you’ll call more. I know you will not.
I wonder…If you recognized that the thoughts and emotions you withhold create an unnecessary barrier, then would you put down your armor? If you realized how I gathered little pieces of you from the stories I heard in order to know more of who I am, then would you be less resistant to bridging the gulf of our relationship? If you knew that love is a verb, then would it still be a word that you rarely allow to be heard?
I’ve had many years now to dissect our relationship; it has laid open and bare for 50 years. I’ve learned—and continue to learn—to accept the things that I couldn’t when I was too immature and hurt. That even though neither of us would admit it, we probably are more alike than we are different. That since time only passes, I cannot stay in the past. Most importantly, I’ve learned that bloodlines are forever. Nothing can change the fact that I am your daughter, and you are my dad.
As I hold the hand of the little girl wounded by your chosen absence, together we release our unmet expectations of you and any residual unforgiveness for the sake of our healing. It wouldn’t change anything that has already occurred in our fractured relationship, but it would hinder the possibility of a future one.Leave a Comment