I remember quite clearly several aspects of my life as a second grader. It was a strange new world, this second grade. It was the year my teacher hugged every student every morning, the year phonics reigned supreme, and the year I learned spelling was the enemy. This was also the year that my father spent six months sailing the seas with the United States Coast Guard.
For a seven year old, I understood more than was expected of me. I had seen the boat; received presents from Hawaii, Japan, and Alaska; and I knew that sometimes daddy was much more than a phone call away. My greatest display of understanding was that year’s Father’s Day card.
I remember coloring the thing in class, drawing round noggins and sloppy wilderness. I drew myself on one end of the tan construction card, peeking out of black binoculars. Far on the other end of the paper was my father, looking back at me through his own pair of binoculars. In large, kid handwriting I had scrawled, “I would travel the world just to say Happy Father’s Day.”
As the years came and went, my mother developed a mantra. “You’re your father’s daughter,” she would say, smiling as she went about her business. This was usually sparked by some remark I made that she could just hear my father saying or just out of nowhere. I’m sure there were days when she just looked at me and knew. I was more of him than I ever was of her. That’s not a bad thing; she didn’t love me less for it. My father and I had an incredible relationship. Even when he left home for long periods of time, I never truly lost him.
He was one of my best friends. He taught me all the lessons I keep close to my heart. He taught me how to drive, instilled balance in my life, and showed me how to both love and laugh.
It was strange when he got sick in April. Those cords and tubes—they don’t make much sense. They’re scary. Like strange, clear snakes they encompassed his arms, his chest, his face. Our conversations grew shorter, limited by time and hospital restrictions. He was tired and sore, sick and weak. But he was still there for me. He was still concerned about me. He was still teaching me things. Through all of his diagnoses, his pain, his surgeries… He still devoted so much time to making sure my mother knew he loved her, that my brother knew, that I knew.
My father died on July fifteenth. I can’t say I expected it then or that I’m okay with it now. I was afraid at first. I felt he had left me and feared I would begin to forget him. But, today—and everyday—I know that he’s here with me. On every street corner, in every room of every building, he is still here. It’s strange… But I can feel him. Sometimes I think I could hear him if I just listened to the autumn wind closely.
The people you love immensely never really leave you—especially when you need them. That is what I believe.