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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Missing Pieces

How many of you remember what it was like to be a child? Do you remember how it felt to be praised by a parent for something? Do you remember what it was like for your Dad to take notice of something you did, and even better, when he BRAGGED about it to his buddies?

And do you remember how much it hurt if you ever overheard either one of your parents, but especially your Dad, say something negative about you?

My parents were only married until I was about eight, but I still remember some pretty special moments, and after that, everything from my Dad became even more precious because he didn't live with us anymore.

There is something in all of us that really needs a Dad. We need our Fathers. If we don't have them, then some piece of us goes missing and we spend our lives looking for it.

I can only look at this through the eyes of a daughter, but I know that sons are also desperately in need of their fathers, and they need strong, manly figures in order to round them out and turn them into the men they are destined to become. And when they don't have that, they also spend their lives searching for that missing piece.

Wheras I really didn't have much of a "Dad" when I was younger, those years as a "Daddy's Girl" really left an impression on me. I still remember his praise; I still remember Dad telling me I could do anything. While Mom did extra to keep me grounded, Dad did everything he could to endorse my dreams - no matter how outrageous. As far as he was concerned, if I wanted to build a catapult out of bubble gum, sticks, and rubber bands and eject myself to the moon so I could bring back a piece of blue cheese, he was all for it and would supply the materials.

He drove my Mom nuts.

I think my Dad was a romantic. I'm just like him. He was definitely the sentimental one, and I inherited that facet of his personality.

My Dad died during my Junior year of college, and that following summer I went to Law Enforcement Skills Training. My Mom couldn't understand me or why I was doing this; yet I knew that my Dad had been all for it. He had actually been highlighted in a local newspaper article, bragging about my brother and I. It was a human interest story about he and his group of cohorts who met at a local coffee shop where they would talk about their kids and their lives. Dad was all about us, what we were doing, where we were headed, and how proud he was of our dreams and willingness to pursue them. The fact that his daughter was pursuing a career in law enforcement was a huge point in the article and seemed to make him somewhat of a celebrity among his peers.

But when I graduated from Law Enforcement Skills training, Dad wasn't around anymore. He didn't get to see his little girl standing there in her brown polyester uniform, one of only 11 women in a class of 300, one of the shortest, one of the proudest.

When I graduated from college with my BA degree almost a year later, Dad wasn't there; the last time I'd seen him was at my high school graduation, four years prior.

A few months later, when I was sworn in as a Police Officer, Dad wasn't there. He would have been so proud! He'd always told me I could do anything I wanted to do, and I did it. Dad wouldn't have been surprised to witness my oath and he would have been the first to ask for a photo and to actually hold my badge. My Mom didn't understand at all. I was there because of my Dad; I was there because of Dad's encouragement and his belief in my abilities even while I was still in diapers.

But I'm thankful that I still had an uncle there, who drove Mom up to witness the occasion. It wasn't the same as having my Dad there, not nearly, but I am thankful that at least a male family member was there on that auspicious day as I gave my oath to God, my city, and my country, my oath to serve and protect. He wasn't Dad, but I do think that he was glad to be there just the same. He had several daughters, and I was maybe one by "adoption" and even "default" included somehow in the mix. What was one more daughter among many?

When I got into firefighting, my Mom didn't come up for the swearing-in ceremony. I didn't have any family there. I wish I could say my Dad would have been there, but even for that, I'm not sure he would have made it. He would have been very proud, of course, but I doubt he would have been there. My boyfriend, who was himself a firefighter and the one who had encouraged me and helped me train, did manage to make it, and that meant a lot, especially since no one else was there for me.

It was a doomed career anyway, which is fine, but still, the presence of my Dad would have made a difference in some small way that can't be quantified. It would have, in a sense, "legitimized" what I was doing.

We need our fathers. We need that male presence and that male guidance in our lives, no matter who we are, whether we are male or female. We need our mothers and we need our fathers; it is they who form us, and each has a special role in that.

There is nothing like the praise and support of a father; there is nothing like knowing that our Dads love us and are behind us in what we do. There is nothing like the blessing of a father.

Every so often, I think of my Dad, and the nostalgia stops me in my tracks. I wish I could call him up and share my adventures, not nearly so interesting now that I am an adult. I know that he would help me take myself less seriously, and he'd remind me of the time I calculated the speed of the Black Stallion and declared it impossible. He'd remind me of the time I walked into a glass door at a grocery store, and the "My Heinie" commercials we used to roar about on the radio. Dad was still around when I learned how to drive, and he taught me how to drive in the Cities. He was still around when I wanted to be a jockey, and cultivated my interest in horse racing, even paid for English riding lessons although he couldn't afford it.

For my 16th Birthday, we went to Canturbury Park, he let me pick the horses and he placed the bets. And we entered the "Filly for a Fan" contest, joking about actually winning. He was going to name the filly, "Julie's Dream", and we were going to win the Kentucky Derby...with me aboard. Roses for everyone!

Dad always told me I could do anything - and I believed him.

I just wish that I could hear my Dad tell me, even one more time, something more important, and I wish that, the last time I'd heard it, that I really understood. I wish I could hear my Dad tell me that he loves me and that he is proud of me.

Is there a single one of you out there who doesn't feel the same way?


Beth Lemer said...

I was a daddys girl also, still am at 25 years old and not afraid to say it! Alot of men dont realize the affect they have on their children.

Douglas said...

As a young dad it is somewhat encouraging and somewhat frightening to read those words. Encouraging words are something I need to work on, especially with my wife.


Adoro said...

bethski ~ so true!

MB ~ We all need words of encouragement. Since I'm not married I don't know how important an encouraging word is from a husband (or wife to husband) but you bring up such an important point. Thank you.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Beautiful post. Pass the Kleenex please.

Men are SO critical to children's development. Yet, we see more and more these days how they are marginilized or told they are not necessary.

I'd glad you had your Dad for as long as you did (brief as it may seem). At least you knew him and he was around.

Adoro said...

I did know him, but the last years of his life...not so much. He was an alcoholic, which is what finally killed him.

I try to focus on the good memories because those are more representative of who my Dad really was, without the distortion of his disease.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your very moving post. it reminded me to say thank you to God for my Dad, a quiet good man who has always been there for me. He will be 79 this year, so I need to remind myself not to take him too much for granted. A silver lining to the cloud of losing my Mom in 1999 has been that Dad and I have gotten closer.

Kiwi Nomad said...

Flippin heck you have a gift for writing in a very moving way. I am sure I have said it here before.... but my Dad died when I was 8. I was the eldest and definitely a "Daddy's girl" as well. I have many special memories of my too short time with my Dad.

Unknown said...

You sure can write, girl!

Adoro said...

Melody ~ Definitely take some time to value your will never regret it.

Kiwi! ~ Nice to "see" you again! You did mention having lost your Dad at such a young age. It must make those memories even more precious since his moments with you were so fleeting. God bless you!

Ray ~ Awww..