I can remember being a little kid and knowing that I loved my Dad. I knew that I was happy to see him. I knew that he was funny and smart and that I could count on him. I knew that being there for me was his job. "That's what Dads do" I thought whenever I felt taken care of and heard.
When I was 10, I learned what being a father really meant.
I was friends with a girl named Chrissy. She was a quiet girl and she and I really got along in this way. Neither of us were very sociable outside of school and we spent a lot of time playing with her baby dolls. She was my only friend who still had as many baby dolls as she did. She was also my only friend who kept her baby dolls nice and clean. When I and my other friends were done playing with them, the dolls would be thrown into piles or toyboxes. When Chrissy was done playing wit her dolls, she would wrap them in blankets and place them carefully into little makeshift beds and tuck them in. It seemed curious to me but I never thought too much of it. Luckily for me, as a little kid, I had never had to think too much of anything other than having fun and being a child.
Chrissy and I planned for a sleepover at my house one night and when that night came, she was running late. She eventually showed up, pretty late that night.
When she arrived, she came up into my room. Her eyes were red from crying and she looked very very upset. I asked her what was going on and she basically said "nothing" and that she wanted to sleep. I made up a little bed on the floor, gave her my bed and we went to sleep.
Some time in the middle of the night, I woke up to a little whimper in the dark. It was Chrissy and she was saying my name. I asked her if she was okay and she said "I just wanted to ask you a question.". I asked her what she wanted to know and what she asked me changed my life forever. She asked me "What does is feel like to have a father who loves you?".
I didn't know what to say. I wondered what on earth she meant. She might as well have asked why trees grew leaves....they just do.
Little did I know at the time but Chrissy's father had struggled for his entire adult life with alcoholism. I don't pretend to know what his demons were but I do know that for whatever reason, he was not particularly nice to his family. The love of my father, something that felt, to me, as natural and as ordinary as the smell of the ocean and the coming and going on the seasons, was something that she would never know. Everything that I had to stand on in life was something that was not entitled to me, it was given. It was something that my friend Chrissy would never know in this life.
As she opened up to me about this, laying there in the dark, my father began to take on a new form in my mind. He was no longer just my Dad who had to be there for me. He was a multidimensional human being who made the conscious decision every day of his life to love me and put my life and my cares before his own.
Chrissy and I grew apart but when I think back to that night and back to her in general, I remember her baby dolls and the way that she cared for them. The way that she treated them like fragile treasures that deserved love and attention. It breaks my heart to think of her and how much those dolls must have represented.
I know how fortunate I am to have parents who care about me. Who love me and support me. I would feel proud to be even half of the positive force that my parents have been, in the lives of the people that I love. I hope I can give even a fraction of the support that I have experienced in my time to others and I hope that I can love and love and love until the end.
Thank you, Daddy. For everything.