It's Father's Day. Brent is in Germany. C is in Bend, I mean he lives there so that's not a huge shock, but still. I've been on my own since Wednesday and still have until this Thursday to go. The On This Day feature is filled with the 6 year remembrances from when Dad died. I'm on my period. What I'm saying is I'm a little emotional right now.
It isn't surprising to be upset when a parent dies. I mean, that's the expected reaction. But as I've written about before I was surprised about how much my father's death affected (and still affects) me. I left home at 18. My dad worked two jobs for most of my life so he was busy. I worked and went to school for the last few years I was at home so I was busy. I am not a daddy's girl, that's my sister. I have always been extraordinarily independent, and that includes from my parents.
But independent doesn't mean completely separate.
I have horrible nightmares sometimes. My dreams are always super vivid. I think most writers probably have vivid dreams. We pretend during the day so why wouldn't we pretend at night as well? Which normally is fine. I have vivid, odd, technicolor dreams. But when I have nightmares they are also vivid and odd. When I wake up from one it tends to hold on to me. I can feel the tendrils of the bad dreams trying to drag me back to sleep to pick up where we left off. In times like that I reach out and touch Brent and then go back to sleep. Just a reminder of him being there next to me works.
I think that's what happened when my dad died. I can do it myself. I don't need your help. I've got this. All of those things were mantras of my childhood (and some would say still are) but if I ever got in over my head I knew that I could reach out and touch my dad. I could get his help. I could call him to listen to the car make that funny noise, or help unlatch something that I was having a hard time with, or look at a problem and design a tool for me. I didn't have to have him help, but he was there if I did. And even though it had been years since I had needed to reach out and touch dad to get through the day, he was still available. Until he wasn't.
And I hadn't realized until that point that part of me was still taking comfort in the fact that I could always fall back on him if I needed to. But like having a nightmare when Brent is traveling, I had no way to reach him. To reassure myself that I really did have this, but just in case...
Over the years I've figured that out. And figured out that I still do reach out and steady myself with Dad. Or with Mom as well. Even when they aren't around they are so much a part of me that I touch them all the time. And when I really need to "talk" to Dad I hold his ring. My talisman of my father. And it helps me feel a little stronger. Because that's what Dads do. They make you feel a little stronger.
When I was very little my brother and sister and I were outside playing and the neighbor kids took something of ours (I want to say it was fireworks, but I cannot for the life of me remember what it was now). When Dad found out he went and got it back. But he didn't just do that. He brought those kids back with him and we all had to stand in a circle and talk to each other. They had to return what they had taken and I think we had to apologize for not letting them play with us in the first place. It's a foggy memory on specifics. The lesson I got out of it though was that we all had to stand there and talk it out. All of us. It wasn't a case where we were better or worse, we all had something we had to say to each other to fix the situation and Dad made it happen. Dad was a fixer.
The one thing he couldn't fix though was his death.
There was no way to undo that one. To get him to open the latch I couldn't get to budge. To make a tool for me that was going to get me through that day and the next and the one after that.
Or at least that's what I thought when it first happened.
Now I know he gave me those tools a long time ago. I've got this. I can do this. Even if I need to reach out and touch my talisman. Or tell a story. Or make a dumb joke. I can touch him. I can get that support. He did that over the years. Quietly. While he was incredibly busy. While I wasn't even paying attention. He taught me how to make it on my own.
I hope Brent and I have done the same for C. I think we have. He is living on his own, working, paying his bills, finding friends and things to do that he enjoys. He can still reach out to us when he needs to. And I am really happy that he calls home once a week just to check in. But I hope that he has us with him all the time. I hope he hears our voices giving him the support he needs. I hope that when he feels a little lost he can reach out and put a hand on Brent and know that his father has him. Quietly. Even incredibly busy. While C wasn't even paying attention. I hope he knows.
Happy Father's Day.