When I was 2 months old my dad was hospitalized for depression. When I was 4 years old I remember knocking on his bedroom door begging him to come out and play. On his good days he came out and planted forget-me-nots in our front yard and strawberries and carrots in our backyard garden. He loved rocks, blue skies, fresh baked pie, driving with his window rolled down and a good book.
He wrote down ideas, quotes or random thoughts that motivated him and gave him hope. He used scotch tape, masking tape, the sticky side of a price tag, anything with good sticking power and attached words to his bathroom mirror, bedside lamp or when he ran out of space, his bedroom wall. He wrote in the margins of books and highlighted entire passages, often the whole page in yellow marker. It was as if the written word was so valuable to him he didn’t want to miss any of it. He wanted to imprint it on his brain.
When I was 8 I prayed every night to the God hanging on the wooden crucifix above my bed to make my daddy better. In my teens I gave up briefly and told him to fuck off if he wasn’t going to change. In my 20’s I realized he wasn’t going to change so I loved him anyway. In my 30’s I helped my oldest sister find a nursing home for him to die in peace.
Now at 41, with dad gone 7 years next month I feel his love more than ever before. He is able to father me like he couldn’t when he was alive. He shows up in the garden, when I’m baking a pie, reading to my children, driving on the highway. More than I miss the father he couldn’t be, I miss the father that he was.