Two months ago to this day I received a text from my father:
I love you more each day. XXX Daddy.
Thank you Daddy! Feel exactly the same way!
How lucky I am to have such an elegant, kind, truly GOOD man for my father. Love you!
He wrote back:
XXX You more. Let’s go Rangers!
“Game night! Love you Daddy xo”
My elegant, kind and truly GOOD father passed away the next day.
There is so much I could write- stories of my youth, of family dynamics and of times I will never forget. But here’s what matters for Motherlucker purpose: the magnificent choices my father made parenting me.
My father was wildly vested in my happiness. I knew this because he told me so. But more importantly he showed me so in a remarkable way. My Dad didn’t see his job as a parent as “director” so much as “clean up crew”. He honored every choice I made and let me know that whatever the outcome, he was there for me– to help me celebrate in victory or to pick me up off the floor from defeat. The grace of my Dad honoring my decisions was breathtaking.
My father saved being really, truly angry for really, truly important times. When I was five, I was racing through the basement with a grape sour ball in my mouth. The inevitable occurred, the sucker got stuck, I couldn’t breathe. I froze. Earlier my father had unwrapped that candy for me and said “Don’t run, Lara, you could choke.” Yup, I’m not always the best listener… My father saw me struggling and raced to my side. He shook me upside down and the purple sucker popped out of my mouth, skipping across the concrete floor. He put me right side up and yelled at me in a tone and volume that petrified me. When faced with his little girl choking, he was afraid in a way I only now understand. As parents, we get mad. But there’s a brand of mad that is totally and completely rooted in fear. This mad needs its own name. That was where my dad was that day. And the connection between my not listening and the fear I saw in his eyes was a real and vital lesson I will never forget and thankfully never needed repeating. My Dad saved the “must nots” and “should nots” and “can nots” for things from which he feared he could not protect me. In doing so he made me safe and yet left me so much world to discover.
My father understood the beauty of small moments. We had lifetimes of them. Vanilla soft serve with rainbow sprinkles sitting on the tailgate of our Chevy station wagon with the wood on the side. Hurling myself, unafraid, off a dock in Maine into his waiting arms before I could swim because I knew I would be caught. Downshifting into second, accelerating around turns and feeling secure because he was my co-pilot teaching me that driving stick is the only way to drive. Lacrosse games where Dad paced alone on the sideline and encouraged me in a voice I could pick out among a thousand. When school, boys, life proved too hard there were my Dad’s German pancakes to the rescue. Dad + gluten? Wonder twin powers of love. I was invincible with him on my side. I still am.
The loss of my father is profound. It is at times a physical pain. Yet the ache that comes in the knowing he is gone is immediately surrounded by the truth that my father and I were complete. There is no conversation left unspoken. He told me he loved me each and every time we were together. He showed me he loved me for forty seven years. He was proud of me. One more “I love you” would be magic. But it wouldn’t alter the truth of what lived between us in his life. And what lives in me still.
As a mother I am constantly checking myself mentally: am I being my Dad? Am I giving my boys room to be who they are? Room to discover who they want to be? He taught me the power of just being there. Of grounding me. By example he showed me the power of being quiet so my son’s voices can be heard. The lens I look through now is wanting to give my sons the gift my father gave me. Of feeling whole in their relationship with me, of being the safe place from which they can go out into the world unafraid. I lost my father but I gained an unwavering drive to be as good and as true and as authentic as he was.
If you are reading this? First: thank you. Second: reach out to those you love. On January 25th after getting my Dad’s text a thought crossed my mind. I wanted to start an email exchange with my him of the Proust questionnaire found in the back of Vanity Fair. I thought it would be fun and perhaps I’d find out tidbits about my father I didn’t know. Who was his hero of fiction? Mine was Anne of Green Gables, did he know that? Turns out time wasn’t on my side in this small endeavor. I hope with all my heart it is on yours. Ask questions. Fun ones. Weird ones. Hard ones. Say what needs to be said. What wants to be said. Forgive me for being trite, but tell the people you love that you love them. Knowing my last words to my father were “I love you Daddy” is a bold, italicized exclamation point of comfort. “I love you” was felt in everything he ever did or said to me. Those words and their truth help me breathe.
Daddy? Stevie Wonder said it best… “As around the sun the earth knows she’s revolving, and the rosebuds know to bloom in early may, just as hate knows love’s the cure, you can rest your mind assure, that I’ll be loving you always…”
PS… To my Motherlucker family- Thank you. For your sisterhood, support and love. You have all brought me tremendous solace. I am forever grateful to Yael for creating this incredible community that holds space for all we go through not just as parents but as people.