This is the first time in my life that I am unable to pick up the phone and wish my dad a Happy Father’s Day. As much as I know and feel his spiritual presence and understand that he is at peace, it still breaks my heart and makes me feel sad and cheated. It is life on life’s terms. It’s grief and loss and there’s no way to get beyond it but to go through it. Some days it feels like a dream, other days like a nightmare. Some days I just want to be held and some days I wish I were on a beach all by myself. Grief comes in waves and it’s unpredictable, and I am so blessed to have people in my life who may not know exactly how I feel but accept and love me at whatever point I am on the grief roller-coaster.
I expected father’s day to be tough but I really thought yesterday would be more emotional than today. Almost ten years ago my youngest brother Joel, founded Daddy University a support organization for fathers, which has also produced a popular Daddy Daughter Dance for the past five years. I’ve volunteered every year but almost backed out this year because I thought seeing all of those little girls and grown women arm and arm with their fathers would be too emotional for my tattered heart to manage and I didn’t want to have to touch up my concealer all night. But I didn’t know anyone I could count on at the last minute to fill my shoes. I am also intimately aware of the impact the bond fused by this elegant and rare occasion has on the growth and in some cases healing, of relationships between father and daughter, and I wanted to contribute.
I was so stressed during the day that my head hurt all over and I could feel the tension in my shoulders so intensely that I could hardly turn my neck most of the afternoon. It’s amazing how stress can sneak up and almost paralyze you, forcing you to take notice and counteract. I wanted everything to be perfect for my daughter’s first time going to the dance with her dad, yet my body was screaming “what about me???!”. So I slowed down a bit, stopped stressing about the time and her anxiousness and took a lot of deep breaths. When I checked into the hotel near the Convention Center where the dance was held, I started to relax. Just the beauty of the foyer of the Downtown Philadelphia Marriott Hotel caused you to inhale the energy, beauty and life around you. We both dressed for the occasion and she looked just like an angel! Adding the details of the pearls and glitter lip gloss, I almost felt as if I were helping her get dressed for her wedding. I was so thrilled for her and it kept me from getting sad or thinking about the fact that I would never have the opportunity to attend a daddy daughter dance with my Dad. As the evening went on, I helped out and watched the event unfold. One by one, the caring men, gorgeous gowns and dresses and whispers of “daddy can I have…” danced by me and the air was so full of love and excitement that I was swept up into the energy of it all and not once felt sorry for myself. I had expected to have a full-blown pity party, but the opportunity never presented itself. Several times I looked into the dance to make sure my daughter was enjoying herself. She found her way to me a few times and I encouraged her to go back in, enjoy this time with her Dad and dance the night away. I knew that she, like me, felt the fervor and spent most of the night taking it all in.
People say that the best way to take your mind off of your own troubles is to give of yourself and do something for others and that wisdom really rang true last night. As the only girl, my father and I had a special bond. He spoiled me, called me “pretty girl” and tried to give me anything that I asked for. He loved me and tried his best to show it all of the time. He was proud of the woman I had become and even more proud I think of the Mother that I had come to be. He loved to call me his “one and only” and not once, unless he was in the hospital, did he miss sending me a card for my Birthday, Valentines day, Christmas and even my wedding anniversary. And oh yeah, daddy also LOVED to dance.
To a daughter, a father is the first love in their life, responsible for teaching her how she should be cared for and treated by what will hopefully be the last love in her life.
I feel sorry for the last love in my life because he has a hard act to follow.
Happy Father’s Day daddy! I miss you and hope you are still smiling…and dancing! Love, Neet