Fathers and Daughters
There’s an ode to Fathers and Daughters, isn’t there? Obviously, I don’t know it myself…or at least it’s not coming to mind today – of all days.
Instead what comes to mind is the image of the bond between Fathers and Daughters. Like super glue holding parts of a child’s toy in one functioning, running, operating piece, intersected to share one purpose: To please.
For most Fathers – and I know I’m generalizing hugely – the bond is one of sacrificing. Even if it’s at all stakes, a Father places his precious Daughter on a pedestal with the sole goal of protecting her, often at all costs to the last breath. No matter what a Daughter may do – and sometimes we do crazy things! – the one thing she can most likely rely on is the unending unconditional devotion of her Father.
For most Daughters – and my leap into assumptions is just as enormous here – the bond is one of fulfilling dreams. Sure, the dreams are of her own, but often they reflect an undercurrent of the desires a Father has for his Daughter. Subtly or overtly. Maybe it’s for a ‘good match’ in a partner, maybe joy as a parent herself, maybe a prominent career, maybe solid financial stability, or maybe all this and then some. So often, Fathers plant the mere possibility to dream in the hearts of a Daughter, nurturing her until the moment she takes flight…and onwards. And for that mentoring, Fathers earn their own pedestals, ones of admiration…and if one’s fortunate, of heart-felt respect.
And the odd thing: despite giving birth to Daughters, Mothers don’t trespass on this bond. They can’t. They hold their own treasured bond to Daughters, but it is distinctly not this bond. So differently, Mothers and Daughters hold onto judgments toward each other, and while unconditional in their own ways, pedestals hang lower and tend to sag to one side waiting for a slip, a fall. Maybe that’s where Mothers and Sons fill a void – but that’s for another article.
So what happens when a Father’s pedestal is empty?
Twenty years ago today my Father’s pedestal was vacated. His body left this earth, but he left a haunting space in his wake. In his Daughter’s heart. For that’s where his pedestal always was…and remains.
My Father lives on in me: as the anchor of my beliefs, as the filter of my values, in the turning of my phrases, in the sound of my laugh, and with each time I talk with my hands – and WOW, do I talk with my hands A LOT! Maybe that’s where the bond really lives: in what lives on from Father to Daughter…to a legacy preserved with continuing the living.
What keeps prodding me is that while I’ve missed my Father for all that time – and what I wouldn’t give for one last bear-hug and a word of goodbye – I think of my Father now, all these years later, more than I ever did when he was alive. MORE THAN. Oh yah, the deep regret of that inner thought! Totally true and filled with guilt. When my Father was alive, he was here, and as a Daughter who blindly assumed her pedestal-dancing Father was immortal, I must have thought he always would be – I must have?? Because I let time pass by…until time was gone for being with him. In a moment it unexpectedly vanished.
I didn’t recognise the prize before my eyes. I took his devotion for granted and let a ticking clock run out on it. Somehow I disappointed myself…and him. To think of my Father ‘more often’ now saddens me. Backwards maybe, but true.
‘Being with’ my Father was replaced by ‘thinking about’ him. And now, since all I have is thinking about him, that’s what fills his pedestal: memories. Far more than when he was living, my Father fills my thoughts. I hold him captive in my missing.
The last time I heard my Father’s words was twenty years ago, but every one of them echoes through me like he’s still uttering whispers cheering me on to my dreams. I’m haunted by his cheerleading from the beyond…from a not-so empty pedestal.
To my Father…from this Daughter, thank you for making dreaming possible and for continuing to be my biggest cheerleader. XO