I was seven. Too young to fully understand that my father had walked away from me, but old enough to get that I wished I had a father in my life. I had not known my father since I could remember. It was around the time I was 2 he and my mom split up. I am told that they fought a lot, did drugs, and were just toxic to each other. But, as with any story, the lines are blurred by loyalty to people, and I understand that now.. but not then.
Every little girl wants to be loved by their dad. For me, not having a dad in my life, I made up my own version and would add to the story daily. For me, I imagined my dad out there looking for me. Never tiring of inventing stories in my mind of him rescuing me and taking me off to live the quintessential father daughter life. It was not to be though. Instead I found any boy to put in that empty place that would pay me any attention. In a pretty dark downward spiral I lived my life from age 11-18 as if all that mattered was the “love” of a boy given to me.
At age 18 I found myself (back story is long.. will do a post about it sometime for you all) connected with my birth dad. It was an odd thing to become acquainted with someone whom you have had numerous stories created in your head for. I had him built up as a knight in shining armor, and here he sat in his kitchen, balding, out of work, flawed, and human as all get out. It’s a dangerous thing to hold anyone up to a standard that even you yourself could not obtain. I found myself grappling with letting go of the idea of my knight and trying to somehow, get to know and see myself as the daughter of the very real man.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we all struggle with the idea of being human. Oh, we like to throw around the phrase, and say we are “being real”, and talk bluntly about things to other people. I have found though, that true “being real” and true vulnerability is most often found in the quietest of places, in seclusion and in times of being left alone with our thoughts. This is where I was the day I got a knock at the door and had a box delivered to my house. The box was filled with the contents of my birth dad’s car, what was recovered from the car accident that took his life. It was surreal. I sat outside on the front porch just staring at it for what seemed to be a very long time. I wondered if I even had the emotional strength to open it, but the kids were napping so I decided to just go ahead and do it.
I cut the packing tape on either side of the box and lifted the lid. There it was… my father’s life, all packed up in a box. I slid my fingers over top of the old, weathered, camera bag that sat on top. Lifting it up I saw then his wallet and some small notebooks. I opened the wallet after a few minutes of allowing my stomach to stop feeling sick. Inside the wallet was some cash, his driver’s license, and a lottery ticket tucked underneath where a picture would go. It had been purchased around a week before he died. I couldn’t help but feel sad. I then picked up the small notebooks and saw that they had my father’s name written on the cover of each one. My birth dad was an extremely creative person. He could write songs, and play almost every instrument. So, when I saw these notebooks I had much anticipation of them being filled with lyrics, poems, or even just some deep thoughts he had jotted down. I opened each notebook with that excitement and yet with each one I was let down to see that there was nothing written in any of them, just one ink blot randomly on one page. It was as if he had written his name on the front to make it appear as if the notebooks contained some great treasure, but in fact they were empty pages that he would never get the chance to fill. He would never have the chance to write a song, or a poem, or a note to say he loved someone, his time had run out. I am certain that he did not think as he drove that night that he was running out of time. I wonder what he would have done if he had known? I wonder if he would have taken every opportunity to write anything on any piece of paper he could get his hands on… I wonder that a lot.
My life and yours are not guaranteed in any way, shape, or form. We don’t know when our time will run out. Yet, we live life sometimes as if we do. We put off things that we think we will always have the chance, (or another chance) to do. Things that matter. Things that last far beyond our time here on this planet. Things like, telling people you love them. Telling people you care about them. Sending that letter, that card, that picture. Calling that person your heart aches to talk to. Reaching out to that person you want to reconcile with and reconcile. Life is too freaking short to not do these things. Why do we wait until we stand in front of a casket to say nice things about people? Why do we wait until they are gone? Is it that the fear of rejection is gone because they cannot respond and we can make up some sort of conversation in our own mind that gives us the outcome we want? I say that will not be me! I want to have the courage right now, today, to say how I feel and tell people. I encourage us all to do this as well. I don’t want your eulogy.. I want it in the here and now while there is still breath in my lungs. I don’t want my life to be left to wonder what I meant.. I don’t want it to be a random ink blot on a notebook page. I want it to be pages filled with words that were lived.