I wrote this post many moons ago. I let some people read it and the responses were not good. I didn’t give the people what they wanted. It’s not a proper tribute. This reminds me of how apparently hard I am to understand. Didn’t I write that before? I don’t have the script on how to mourn appropriately? Maybe it’s not something y’all need to read, but something I needed to write. My father would love this post.
I can tell you that in true introvert fashion, in the months following my father’s death, I became emotionally unavailable. My inability to express what it felt like may have disconnected me entirely from people who didn’t understand to begin with. My circle grew smaller again and I wonder if that’s good or bad or just life.
You’d have to know me well or to have read me carefully for years to understand that my father and the man I call Dad, or Papa, are two different people. I’ve had three parents for most of my life.
Again, I tell you, how tightly my ball is wound is complicated.
Lots of people have these fathers who are the perfect sort for Father’s Day cards, what with the stern life lessons and dedication and all, but that was not my father.
My father was FUN.
He was generous, affectionate, honest, charming, and he was FUN. He was gay fun, so my childhood was well-dressed and tastefully decorated. Too many fabulous experiences and people to recount. I do sometimes, but people look at me like I’ve got to be kidding. My childhood was stranger than fiction. Wildly inappropriate or simply unorthodox? He wouldn’t care what you thought. You’d be entitled to your dumbass opinion, but it wouldn’t influence his. He did not give any fucks about that. He swore like a sailor cause he was one.
I lived with my father from ages four to twelve. I was never treated like a child. I was precocious and he was fawning.
My father was my biggest fan.
He moved 1800 miles away when I was in high school.
The Past Burned Down in Larry’s Attic. That’s a chapter for you, but the only thing I can say is “Oh well, I never had a childhood anyway,” and “It’s really too bad there aren’t more pictures of my father.”
There were complicated years. There were silent years.
We had a private relationship — letters, phones, then internet. Outside of family, few people in my life ever met my father.
I could have made him up, this distant father, but I didn’t.
I don’t know anyone who has the kind of relationship with their father that I did with mine. My father told me many times that when I was born, he felt God had given me specifically to him. For as long as I can remember I have been Daddy’s Little Girl and Mommy’s Little Basketcase. I have felt that all my life. I am much more my father than my mother. I am turning into my mother, somewhat on accident, and also with careful practice. I’ve had three parents to emulate, and I have taken an a la carte approach. It is easier to be Packard-ly, as though I didn’t get half of each, but more two-thirds Packard. (Which if you know my life — that’s good math.)
Visits from him were rare, and y’all know I had no desire to travel to the desert. Not with two, three, or four kids in tow and certainly not leaving them behind.
This led to more complexities. Perhaps to the people in his life there, I could’ve been his imaginary daughter. But I wasn’t.
I talked to my father every coupla weeks for hours and hours. We could, and did, talk about anything and everything. He was expansive, progressive, fluent in his abundant zest for life.
It was his third cancer that took him. And really, it wasn’t the cancer. The cancer was gone, but its complications took away his life long before he left his body.
A bit over a year was provided for feeling and thinking, worrying and praying. We had no apologies to make, no regrets to fuss over. Everything that needed to be said had been said years ago and long forgotten.
In the year leading up to his death, I’d be messaged that my father was dying, that I needed to go to him. Outsiders held strong opinions, sometimes made demands.
They didn’t know.
He did not want me to go to him. He did not want.
Imaginary father and daughter spoke candidly as always.
My father came to the conclusion of “Those people aren’t us,” which I will remember always.
When I conferred his wishes with my mother, she said, “Honor thy father.”
No one can define the quality of a relationship except the people in the relationship. There is no way to convey to you the loss I feel because I don’t just miss a person, I miss an entire relationship.
No matter how imaginary it may have appeared to other people, we had this bond and a clear understanding of one another. I’m wondering how many other children of unconventional parents find truth in that. If you’re out there, Holla.
My father lives on in me, in my kids, in people whose lives he touched with his humor and great generosity of spirit. But I can’t call him. I can’t call him and tell him what a shitty, shitty time this has been. He’d know what to say, though. He really would. He’d say the right thing.
It’s like a safety net gone. That’s really how I feel, like I’m workin without a net. His voice is in my head, but it turns out it’s not loud enough to make me feel better about how I can’t hear it.
When I think of my father, I do think of his brisk stride, change jingling in his pocket. I do think of him whistling to call me home. I remember the funny character voices he did when he read to me, the light in his eyes, his loud kisses on my cheeks. But what I miss is a much longer list.
I see the greeting cards for Father’s Day and think the same thing I’ve always thought, there are no cards for a daddy like mine.
And I miss him.