Last week we were on vacation in Key West. It was a lovely time spent riding bikes, swimming in the ocean, hanging with my family, and eating great food. But, it was also a time of reflection. I made a point to wake before the girls each day so I could sit on the balcony with my coffee (and sometimes a book) to get some alone time. And to think about things. (I did share this post on my Facebook page, so you may have already read most of it!)
The Key West airport was literally in the backyard of our condo. It’s not a busy airport, so it wasn’t super noisy & they don’t fly after 10:00 pm.
But I really liked it being here. It made me feel like I was close to my dad who also flew. You see, he passed away almost 14 years ago from cancer.
The girls and I sat on the balcony one morning & they started talking about planes & such–since we were watching the planes take off and land.
I don’t really share much about my dad with them. They were only 2 & 1 when he passed, so they have no memories of him.
I think I haven’t shared bc:
1) It hurts. I wasn’t at all ready to let him go & I think I thought holding those memories tight would make me feel like I get to keep him, and sharing them means I have to let him go.
2) It hurts. Sharing his memories reminds me that he is no longer here…and I haven’t been able to accept that even after all these years.
3) It hurts. And it makes me cry & I want the girls to think I am strong and ok.
But that morning, I opened up and shared a memory of how Dad took me flying to a restaurant where we just parked the plane and walked in. There were fur coats hanging on the racks and I felt kind of out of place at first (since we were kind of on the poor side of things), but I was with my dad…nothing felt out of place with him. And I tried peas in my salad for the first time on that trip.
I told them how much I loved flying with him because I felt so safe. I trusted him wholeheartedly and my fear of heights dissipated. I thought he was so cool with his headset on and doing piloty stuff.
Plus, it was just the 2 of us and being the oldest of 5, I didn’t get much of that.
And then I shared with them my biggest regret in life…the grudge I held for most of my high school days. You see, my dad was an alcoholic who didn’t play an active role in most of my younger years (although my parents were still married). He didn’t come to my soccer games or my volleyball games. And one time I tried out for a part in my school’s 8th grade play, and he said he couldn’t come because he was working (he was a roofer…roofers don’t roof at night). When my mom and I came home that night, he was sitting in “his” chair, drunk. When I asked him if he wanted to hear my part, he said no. It wasn’t long after that night that he and my mom got into a huge fight and he left for a while. I remember worrying about how we would make ends meet, but I wasn’t worried about missing him. He came back, and I guess as a way to make his marriage work with my mom, he quit drinking cold turkey. You would think I would be overjoyed, but really I just became angrier because now he was playing an active role in the lives of my younger siblings (they are 6, 9, and almost 12 years younger than me) which made me jealous. And angry that he chose to miss out on me. So, I decided to no longer forgive him when he made me mad. I made a conscious decision to ignore him for almost 4 years. He tried to make amends, but I just dug my heels in even more. I was an “angry” teenager after all.
I shared with the girls how mad I got when he came shopping with my mom and myself and he tried to pick out clothes.
I shared that he finally broke through when I was a senior and had just broken up with my 1st serious boyfriend of over a year. He came in my room to tell me that it’s ok…that I will always have a spot for that boy in my heart, but the feelings will change. I was actually okay with the breakup, but I guess he thought I was heartbroken, and just thinking that he cared got to me.
I shared how I got a lump in my throat so big, I couldn’t talk. I just nodded. And the grudge was broken.
Dad and I talked about all of this before he passed. I told him how sorry I was; he said that it was his fault because I was the kid and he was the parent, but that doesn’t erase the years I wasted. And the guilt I have felt. It’s been a very heavy burden to carry. And I shared this with them.
I almost cried, but I held it in.
I am trying to forgive myself. I am trying to make peace with my loss. But it’s times like these, when I have these reminders of the life he lost, the things he didn’t get to finish doing when he was here on Earth, where it just creeps back up and gets me.
And it’s times like these that I am reminded how temporary this life is. We don’t really have time for grudges. Every single day that we wake up is a gift, but we forget that. We think we have tomorrow or next week or next month. Even next year. I am thankful I had him as my father; and I am even more thankful that he continues to sneak back into my psyche every now and again to remind me to love this life of mine.
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