December 18, 1982 – a date that forever will be engraved in my mind. Why I decided not to go that day is something that has haunted me for years. I doubt I will ever be able to come up with a good reason, but at least now I am able to confront it.
My father was almost 46 when I was born, and it was as if he waited all of his life for me. I was his only child and he treated me as such. I was the ultimate daddy’s little girl. There was nothing my father would not do for me. Although he only lived for the first 13 years of my life, he gave me enough love to last a lifetime.
Was it always that perfect? Not if you count the times when he would leave on a Friday and not come home until the next day or so. Then there were the times when he could not pay attention to me because he and my mother were too busy fighting. And what about the time he left me at my aunt’s house and did not return until 3 months later?
I suppose I chose not to dwell on those events, but rather on the good ones. The Saturdays my father would take me downtown and buy me anything I asked for. The times he would call me over to sit on his lap while he read the newspaper. The day he bought me my first bike and taught me how to ride it. Lazy days spent at the lake fishing. Christmastime when he would take me along to pick out a real tree. And one of my favorites: taking me into his arms and "hiding " me from my mom whenever I was naughty.
Yes, my father doted on me – perhaps to a fault. I was completely dependent on his love.
When he was diagnosed with cancer I was told, “Your dad has a terminal illness. He only has a few months to live.” What the hell was that supposed to mean to an 11 year old? What kind of cruel joke was life trying to play on me? I went into complete denial. No one had taught me how to live without my father.
My father lived for about 2 more years after that, and spent much of the time in and out of hospitals. The last few months of his life he never left. He spent my 13th birthday in there, as well as his 59th (our birthdays were only 8 days apart.) At first I would go to see him daily, then I would only go every other day. I was young, and my mother thought it was too much for me. Regrettably, I did not understand the gravity of the situation, nor was I ready to confront it.
For years I replayed that day over and over again in my mind. I felt ignored as my aunt came over to give my mother the news that my father had passed away that evening. Nobody was telling me directly, I had to overhear it. I don’t think I believed anybody for days. After all, the last time I saw him he was very much alive. Besides, even though it was my turn to visit him that day I had decided to stay home. I needed one more chance to visit him at the hospital. There was no way he could be gone.
I was never truly aware of just how much that decision had affected my life until now. I regretted it for years. I knew my father was terminally ill, but I never got the chance to say good-bye properly. I never really had closure.
Letting go of the blame, letting go of the guilt, and holding on to the love that we shared were imperative in order for my healing to begin. I may never know why I did not go to see my father that day, but I will always know that he loved me unconditionally.