Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April 22

Dear Dad,
Today would have been your 62nd birthday. I would have waffled on whether or not to call you. I would have worried about how the conversation would go. Will it be one of the good ones or one of the uncomfortable, awkward ones? Anticipating the latter, I would have looked for excuses not to call. But I would have called you nonetheless. I hope I would have. I would have heard your voice, so soft yet so excited to hear mine. You loved me so much, I have not doubted that over the last few years, but sometimes I didn’t know what to do with all that love. Sometimes it made me feel uncomfortable.

We would have talked about the kids and the cool things you’ve been doing on your computer. You would have asked about my job and Husband. You, undoubtedly, would have found a way to mention that I have not called or sent pictures in a long time, which would have been true. Or maybe you wouldn’t have said anything, but I would have heard it anyway. I would have asked you about your health, and you would have lied. I probably would not have asked you about grandma because I didn’t want to know the bad news or hear you complain about how hard it is for you to take care of a 90-some-year-old woman with severe dementia.

I probably would have mentioned that we were planning a trip home some time this year, probably in the summer. Of course, you would have known that this meant that we would stay with my mom and stepdad and only stop by to see you a couple of times during the week, in between all other commitments. But you would have told me how you couldn’t wait to take the boys to the river beach near your apartment, show them the frogs, watch them play at the playground, hold Baby on your lap.

And then you would have said something to indicate that you should get off the phone, much sooner than I would have expected. I would have been surprised, as I always was. You were always the one to end the conversation—but maybe you did it to take the pressure off of me. Your voice would have started to sound tired and weak, which I would have probably attributed to minor speech difficulty from your stroke of a few years ago. But there would have been so much emotion, so much pain in your voice that I would have wondered if you were crying.

I would have been the first one to disconnect, and then I would have replayed the conversation in my head many times, wondering how you really were, what you were working on, how you were making ends meet.

But we can’t have this conversation today, and no matter how awkward those calls sometimes—or often—were, today I would give so much just to hear your voice again, Dad. To tell you how much I love you and how sorry I am that our relationship was not what you or I ever wanted it to be. And how much I wish I had a second chance.

I first paid attention to the words of this song on my long flight to your funeral. Since then, I have been unable to listen to it without tears. Yet I can’t seem to be able to turn it off when it comes on the radio in the car. Instead, I pull the car over and cry.

This time, this place
Misused, mistakes
Too long, too late
Who was I to make you wait
Just one chance
Just one breath
Just in case there's just one left
'Cause you know, you know, you know

I love you
I’ve loved you all along
And I miss you
Been far away for far too long
I keep dreaming you'll be with me
and you'll never go
Stop breathing
if I don't see you anymore

On my knees, I'll ask
Last chance for one last dance
'Cause with you, I'd withstand
All of hell to hold your hand
I'd give it all
I'd give for us
Give anything but I won't give up
'Cause you know, you know, you know

That I love you
I’ve loved you all along
And I miss you
Been far away for far too long
I keep dreaming you'll be with me
and you'll never go
Stop breathing
if I don't see you anymore

I wanted
I wanted you to stay
'Cause I needed
I need to hear you say,
“I love you
I’ve loved you all along
And I forgive you
For being away for far too long”
So keep breathing
'Cause I'm not leaving you anymore
Believe it
Hold on to me and, never let me go

But unlike the music video (which I’ve watched for the first time just now while googling the lyrics), for me, it’s love song without a happy ending. There isn’t a last dance, there isn’t a chance to ask for forgiveness, there isn’t a way to make up for being away for far too long.

A brilliant friend suggested that sometimes you simply don’t get closure. Ever. This brought me to tears—and surprisingly, also brought me relief because this notion allowed me to stop wondering ‘what is wrong with me’ and ‘why can’t I just move on.’ But it also made me realize that even if I don’t ever get closure, I need to get through this, I need to get things off my chest, and pushing these thoughts away or ignoring them is just going to prolong the pain.

You always told me that I should write, Dad, but I knew I could never be as good as you, so I resented your pressure. I said, “I can’t write something that others would find interesting.” And you said, “If it is interesting to you, there is a good chance it would be interesting to someone else.”

I took a break from writing, hoping it would free me from my gloomy thoughts. It seemed to work for a while, but the sadness has returned, and I found myself composing sentences in my mind during sleepless nights, hoping that by properly linking them together, one by one, I can build a path out of this darkness. So it seems fitting that on your birthday I return here, to a medium that has helped me find a way out before.

I love you, Dad. I've loved you all along.


Tinker said...

I hesitated reading more after getting through the first line, mostly because the loss of my own dad was sudden, and too young at 61, and I was certain I would end up crying.

I did, but it was worthwhile.

Your friend's insight that sometimes there is no closure is a valuable one, and I'm glad that it is helping you cope with the loss of your dad.

Rachel said...

I am sorry, hang in there.

Sarah said...

the picture sent me over the edge, but the whole post is a beautiful and very real tribute to a relationship many people can relate to. he is absolutely right that when you write about what is important to you it will be meaningful to others too.

i have a feeling we could talk about this for hours. sorry it took me a week to get over here. i've been meaning to wish you a happy 18-month milestone and also to ask you some questions about the nanny. i'll email you soon. take care!!

Lindsey said...

Oh, Kate. What can I say? It's a beautiful letter to your father. It brought tears to my eyes. I'm sorry this has been so painful for you, and I'm so glad to see you back.

And the picture captures love that you must have both held onto your whole lives. Thank you for sharing.

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