Scrolling through my Twitter stream today, I come upon a tweet from someone about someone’s dad dying. I click through and read the post. I don’t know the person at all, but her post touches me because I can feel that it’s written from a raw place of hurt. This is the wonder of the internet…how we touch each other with our universal joy and pain, our words spilled out into the ether and the trail of breadcrumbs that leads us to each other. Strangers, and then, sometimes…not.
What touched me most about her post was a picture she posted at the end of it. A picture of her with her daddy, when she was a small girl. I say “touched”, but it was really more like…made my heart clench and a feeling of loss wash over me. I don’t think I have a single picture of me with my dad, even as a small girl when I know he was there. The only time he was there, and even then, not really. I didn’t ever really have a daddy.
My mother would no doubt be hurt by those words, since she remarried when I was 13 or 14, and my stepdad is my dad. But you can’t just insert a daddy where there wasn’t one, not with a teenager. Doesn’t work that way. Especially when the real one is still alive and wreaking his havoc in your life at irregular intervals. It took me years to call my stepdad “Dad”, and if I’d had my way back then they’d never have got married at all.
“Oh, you see that skin?
It’s the same she’s been standing in
Since the day she saw him walking away
Now she’s left
Cleaning up the mess he made” – John Mayer, “Daughters”
You would think that after 50 years, the pain of that kind of loss would fade. It does, it isn’t a constant throb the way it was in my teens, my 20s, my 30s. It’s no longer a thing that sends me down the destructive path of looking for something to wipe out the feelings of being unloved, unworthy…unloved.
It flares up like a wildfire, though, when I see a picture of a girl with her daddy. Really anything about girls and dads…movies, commercials, cards. Instant tears, an ache that will always be there in the background, waiting to ambush me at a tender moment’s notice. Sometimes I don’t even know why, at that moment, I’m so suddenly awash in grief and tears.
I feel bad for the woman who lost her daddy today. But the thing that I felt the most, when I got to the picture of her and her dad, was this: God, you are so lucky. So lucky to have had a daddy to love you, that you are mourning now because you loved him so much. Because he loved you so much. I couldn’t even work up a tear at my dad’s funeral, nor could my brother or my sister. It took years and years but he killed any love we had for him, long before he died. No mourning for the father who tried to destroy us.
But for the daddy I never had, I think I’ll probably mourn in some way for the rest of my life.