Monday, November 13, 2006

what if my dad was still here

I was two years old when my dad died of cancer. It’s really not something I discuss. If the subject ever comes up while talking with my friends, my friends offer the obligatory, “I’m sorry,” and we collectively move on to a more pleasant topic. After all of these years, I’ve learned to suppress the developing lump in my throat when I think of him.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t miss him…or rather miss the image of him that I have in my head. My mom has a few close friends that remain from the BC era (for “before cancer”) who remember my dad fondly. They recall these memories and images of my dad and impart that information to me. My mind hungrily hoards these memories. I then add them to the collection that already exists in my head and make them my own. This, in turn, creates the representation of “my dad,” someone who lives in the recollections of others, instead of my own.

My mom deliberately chose not to remarry. When I asked her why, she said, “I know that I will never again love someone the way I loved your dad.” Fair enough. I never questioned her decision. Suddenly a widow at the age of 38 with three young children to raise, my mom made a conscious decision to raise her children on her own. This couldn’t have been easy. In fact, it might’ve been easier for my mom to just marry the first suitor that came her way just to have some company and an extra hand around the house. However, my mom, my stubborn and strong-willed role model, opted to do it all herself.

At the age of 17, I finally came to term with my father’s death. It was an epiphany I had as I was filling out my college application essays that I’d rather keep to myself. During a period of writer’s block, I asked my mom many questions I had about my dad. When it was all said and done, my mom said something that stuck with me—“I never wanted you to feel your father’s absence. I tried so hard to shelter you from that. I did everything I could to be both your mom and your dad.” I can still see the look in my mom’s eyes when she said that. Her eyes told me, I’m sorry I failed you. The truth is that I’ve always known that my father wasn’t there. Since I was too young to remember my life while he was alive, I don’t really know what it’s like to have a father. I wish I knew. Instead, I’m left to wonder.

On Saturday, Jesse and I got together with his friends at Bungalow Billiards in Shirlington to watch the Virginia Tech game. It was a much different crowd than Bailey’s—not as loud, a bit more calm and reserved, not as spirited. At the table next to us was a father and his daughter, all decked out in VT gear. They were sharing a bucket of Bud Light. Every once in awhile, the daughter would cheer. The dad would turn to her to explain a play. Together, they complained about bad calls, Sean Glennon’s questionable play, and nonexistent penalties. Shortly before the game was officially over, they left together, probably rehashing the game on the drive home.

I was jealous of the daughter with her dad. I thought to myself, what it would be like to watch a USC game with my dad? This renegade thought surprised me. How did you creep into my brain? How did you seep into my subconscious? It had been so long since I had felt my father’s absence. When I was a child, I used to think of him every single day. Now, as a somewhat self-sufficient adult, I don’t always miss him. But now I find myself wondering…

Would my dad be as crazy about college football as I am? Would my dad be a USC fan? Would he cheer on USC with the same fervor? Would we be able to chill and hang out and drink a few Coronas? Would we share the same political views? Would we read the same books? Bookmark the same websites? Would he get along with Jesse?

Would my mom miss me as much if my dad were still here?

Would my dad be proud of me?

Oh how I wish I knew.


Michelle said...

He would most definitely be proud of you, because anyone who has met you is proud to know you!

Jesse said...

Of course he would be proud of you. With all of the great things you have accomplish and are going to accomplish, how could he not be :)

lizzie said...

thanks, guys.