NOTE: If you're looking for cheerful and upbeat, you might want to skip today's post. This one is drenched in tears. Go hug your loved ones and be grateful you have them.
The ones that love us never really leave us. - Sirius Black
Today is your 59th birthday. It seems impossible that we're separated by far more than years. There are days when I'm sure you're going to call me downstairs to watch a movie starring nasty aliens. Days when I expect to find you outside grilling, or digging in the garden. When I think I'll find you pouring coffee in the kitchen or petting the dogs. It can't be 9 years since I last heard your voice.
I'm swamped with memories that I'm sure just happened days ago. I was six years old, sitting on your lap and giggling as you rubbed your stubble-covered jaw against my cheek.
I'll never forget the time you'd done laundry and didn't want to fold socks so you told me we were going to play a game of who could fold fastest. Surprise, I won.
The way you cried when our little dog died and you said you weren't crying because she was gone, but because we were so sad—we all know you loved her too. We caught you playing with her too many times not to believe it.
Then I was thirteen and we were in the doctor's office getting a cast put on my arm, laughing and going on while the doctor looked at us like we were crazy.
In no time at all I was fourteen, crying like a baby while you counted bills to buy my first horse.
Those times you let me drive on my learner's permit and I know you were scared silly.
The day I was watching a movie where a couple was having sex. You walked through the living room, looked at the screen and said, “Huh, they're doing the nasty.” And just kept going.
At seventeen, my high school graduation when you told me not to cry on your suit coat, but you hugged me close even though I had tears in my eyes.
The day we were alone in the truck and you said you believed I could do about anything I put my mind to.
The worst fight we ever had when I said I wasn't going to college and we didn't talk for days.
The day you dropped me off at college and said you wished you could stay. I'd have traded places with you in a second. Watching you and Mom drive away was the toughest thing I'd faced until then.
I wish I'd stayed home during Spring Break that March. Wish I'd let you take me out for my 21st birthday instead of going with friends I don't even speak to anymore. Wish I'd paid more attention the last time you said 'I love you', because I was so angry over something stupid and trivial, I can't even remember hearing it.
Sometimes I see someone who looks like you and get caught staring. If he was slimmer, if he had a different nose, if he wasn't wearing shorts. If he'd just stop smiling, stop talking to those strangers, I'd run up to him and throw my arms around him and everything would be all right again. Denial has always been one of my favorite defense mechanisms.
There are a thousand moments I'd go back to if I could. A thousand things I'd say and questions I'd ask, because I always thought I'd have time. And now it's nine years since the worst day I can ever remember. I get through that majority of the days without tears, without the shock of realizing that you're not coming back. I wake up and realize a dream that you're in was just a dream. It's the days leading up to the 15th and 19th that are always the worst. Each day has it's own memory and all of them are bittersweet. Knowing you aren't here leaves me feeling like I've been kicked in the chest.
I don't want to think about all the tears I spent crying for something I can't have. Instead I'll think about the birthdays I remember, the good times we had—which are plentiful. I'll get through today just like the rest because it's enough that you loved me and that can't be taken away no matter how far apart we are.
I'll say Happy Birthday because while the real happiness is missing from it, I'm glad I got the privilege of being your daughter.
I love you, Daddy.