It has been a long time since I recalled being a little girl, in love with her dad; but since my father has passed away, the block that prevented me from recalling what it felt like to be loved by him, to trust him completely, has fallen away. Mostly it makes me feel really sad about all the things that kept me from feeling that way about him again. Even with all of the efforts I made in the last 8 years to rebuild a connection, what occurs to me now is that the places we can’t forgive and let go are our own making. My father was not an easy man to love… but ultimately the love I withheld from him, I actually withheld from myself.
I am a bit stunned because I couldn’t feel any of this when I was with him in recent years. In part, his lack of manners and coarse language forced me to protect myself. He was hard on everyone, but hardest of all on his kids and I was the only one left hanging around. My kids found his coarse manner and freedom with curse words refreshing, but they were not usually the brunt of his attacks. There were moments when he was gentle with them, such as when he was teaching them how to study stocks or real estate, as he had once done with me.
In truth, I see now that the soft and gentle daddy that I knew was hidden deep inside of him. I can only remember a handful of times in my adult life that he called me, “Wen, sweetheart,” as he did often when I was small. But still, I can hear his voice and now I wake in the middle of the night wanting to call back. In fact, he is in my dreams every night now, waking me with younger versions of himself, totally rejuvenated and me, feeling stupid for thinking he could be dead and gone. Then there are the other dreams of him being frail and lost and me there helpless.
The summer that the Watergate hearings played all day on the radio, I spent a lot of time with him, riding shot gun while he made his sales rounds. We had long talks about honesty, integrity and what it meant to be a leader in the midst of all that Watergate investigating. He wasn’t jaded then, and his voice was still soft when he said my name. I can’t remember what car he drove at the time, only the way that my legs stuck to the hot seats and the breaks we would take for slurpees or ice cream.
I am overcome with missing my father of late. All the ways that he pushed me and everyone else away now feel small and stupid. I can’t believe I couldn’t see them for what they were. This is the peace we must make with ourselves in our life time, this knowing where we came from, who we came from and finding the willingness to love it.