I found this photo a couple of months ago while I was cleaning. It's a Polaroid, the kind taken at a party and then tucked in a sleeve and sold for a couple of bucks to the people who are in it as a memento of the good time they were having. (You know, like when you ride a rollercoaster and a photo is taken of you just before you soil yourself on that first drop and when you come off of the ride they try to sell your fear back to you? Yeah, I have one too.) I have no idea how it ended up in my things, but I'm glad I found it. It makes me smile. This photo is the quintessential snap shot of a Sunday afternoon at the Club. My parents are dancing with Bertie and Felix Izquierdo, two of my favorite people of all time. I'm guessing from my mother's and Bertie's sleeveless-ness that it is summer. I can't quite tell what year it is, although my dad is smoking, so it must be pre-1982.
My dad's birthday is on Friday, August 4. This photo is how I would like to think of him celebrating Number 74. Some people will say that dealing with a loss like this gets easier. It doesn't, not really, not for me. It will be three years in September and the hurt hasn't gone away. It never will, but the intensity of that hurt has diminished a bit. I have a very full life, a life my father would be proud to boast to his friends about. There's plenty to keep my mind occupied what with my relationship, my job, my friends, my writing. My brother and sister have kids, jobs and homes, too. And, of course, we work together to make my mother's life easier (I'm no hero, my siblings do the bulk of the work with my mom). What never changes is that every year, there's a birthday and Father's Day and the anniversary of his passing. Bumps in the road, I guess, but there they are.
I think about my dad every day. Little things will remind me and make me smile. My mother will do something crazy (anything, really) and I'll think about what his reaction would be (laughter, usually). I'll hear a song that he loved and feel like he's with me. Baseball is a good way to feel close to him, so I watch more games now. Then there are the things that totally throw me. Funerals are different now. I can relate to what the family is dealing with on a very different level. I understand the process better. Weddings are hard. The Father-Daughter dance is impossible. I have to duck out because I start to cry and it's not the "isn't that sweet!" crying that relatives and bridesmaids do. It's much worse. It's sobbing, the kind that is accompanied by gasping and lots of nose blowing. It's not that I'm not happy for the bride and her dad, it's just that...well, you know. I feel gypped. And yeah, I get angry because I don't get to have that moment, which I know is very selfish. And then I think, "who the hell are you mad at?" There is no one to blame, it's just how I feel. Maybe lots of women who lose their dads feel that way too. I don't know. I can only speak for myself.
I have to say that I feel very lucky to have had him around for as long as I did. And I'm lucky that I got over myself and my teenaged angst in time to have a decent relationship with him.Even when I was all but living in the Bell Jar, I knew that he cared about me and wanted to see me happy. Maybe I've said this before, but to have gone to bed every night being absolutely certain that my father loved me, no matter what, is the greatest gift he ever gave me. And no one can take that away from me.