It’s been three years since my father’s passing, yet at times it feels like just yesterday. I’ve asked myself countless times how such a cheerful presence could go so quietly in the night? I mean the fact that he’s gone (physically gone) is honestly still too hard to process without wanting to quit halfway. Another waste. Such a shame. I loved him but now I won’t ever see him again. At least not in the way we’re used to. I try to keep myself occupied with work and joyful activities; but most importantly I surround myself with family and friends. They’ve been my rock throughout this heart wrenching process. If you’re lucky enough to have never mourned someone, grief can be one hell of a bitch.
I see little girls with their fathers now and I wonder what they’re thinking. Their innocence and love shining from their eyes like endless spotlights. A light so bright it’s hard not to notice my own shadows. Their most meaningful memories being created as we speak. These will be the exact memories they’ll cling to when life takes over and things transition for them the way they have for me. Because everything changes at some point or another; change and love being the only real constants in this lifetime. These forces see no race, economical or social status, nor religious beliefs. We ALL must learn to adapt with the highs and lows in our lives. The real lessons being found in how we adapt to life’s unruly moments and not remaining stuck on “why?”. Some folks bend and sway with life’s developments. Others clench onto their known “realities” hoping to stay in rhythm in case something falls off key. I believe the latter are living in fear of transformation but ultimately that’s their choice and none of my business.
At the same time, life goes on amongst the chaos just like it always has and always will. The trees will stand tall; the ocean’s waves will continue to come and go; and the sun will rise with each morning. Nothing’s changed except for our hearts; our most vulnerable and valuable possession. Nature’s ticking time bomb.
I can honestly say my father loved me unconditionally. There’s not a doubt in my mind about it. That’s because he expressed this love every time we spoke. Yup, I was lucky enough to have a father who cared. One who showed up even though we lived thousands of miles apart. He never let the distance devalue our relationship and trust. I grew up knowing my dad had my back no matter what and if anyone ever fucked with me, they would have to deal with him and his posse of delinquent friends. My father, Robert, taught me how to throw a ball, how to fish and how to properly make a fist so I wouldn’t hurt myself during a fight. He showed me how uncommon “common sense” could be and the significance of patience with myself as well as others. I witnessed firsthand how to lie (successfully I might add) and how to get out of a speeding ticket. Most importantly he showed me how to make those around you feel special. He was emphatic about teaching me generosity and responsibility but overall he embodied how to have fun! I learned how to connect with people, how to hustle, write a fantastic cover letter and get out of jury. Growing up with him provided an invaluable education I use everyday. His most notorious advice was always “to do the right thing” and somehow it applies to mostly everything. He’s imbedded in the way I think, speak and move. He wasn’t perfect but he was mine and he loved me.
Watching him go through addiction and illness was something I never saw coming. My dad was always an extremist. He worked as hard as he played. He was a professional and a big kid at the same time. Being with him was like traveling to Narnia; anything could happen. From trips to Atlantic City to driving lessons on the Lower East Side; it was always an adventure. He gave my cousins and I the space and permission to be kids; to be free. For that I’m eternally grateful. Sure, he probably divulged information I wasn’t intellectually capable of receiving. Spoke to me as a friend when maybe he should’ve been a parent. But I don’t hold this against him. He was doing the best he could with what he knew at the time. Plus, it’s made me the person I am today… utterly screwed up, maybe; but also a strong, intelligent and compassionate woman who doesn’t take crap from anyone. I’m someone who knows better than to judge a book by its cover and that is thanks to my father. A woman who understands that it’s not about the end goal in life but the journey itself. Someone who knows how to work her charm and could probably con a conman… Ok maybe not con a conman but at least I’d try. Which I’m sure my dad would get a kick out of watching from the other side wherever that might be.
If it hadn’t been for the hard times, I would’ve never experienced true forgiveness. It wasn’t easy and it didn’t come naturally either. It took years to even consider forgiving him during the dark times. I had to make the conscious effort to forgive or at the very least be willing to forgive. Thank God I did because you never know when it will be your last chance. As tumultuous as his life became, he always tried to do better. Whether he was successful or not. I’ve learned that’s what matters the most; that we get up and we try. Try to be better and more loving than yesterday. More forgiving, too. He tried and I couldn’t hate him for that. Although trust me there were times when I really hated him. Or at least I thought I did in the moment. Looking back now I realize I don’t hate him for any of the trauma and mistakes because it taught me growth, courage and gratitude for all the good in my life. But above all, it taught me the true meaning of unconditional love.
With another Father’s Day passing, I can’t help but reminisce about the first love of my life and the greatest piece of unsolicited advice I can offer is to live fully like my father did. Definitely skip the addiction if you can but don’t be afraid of taking chances and making mistakes along the way. Express how you feel to those you love while you still can and be bold don’t hold back. Life is beautiful and precious but it’s not guaranteed. Soak it all up and never stop thriving.