My father loved me dearly. I wasn’t the only one. He loved us a lot, maybe sometimes too much. Always putting himself last. Always trying to prove that he was a great husband and father, because his internalized shame and fear and worry made him think he was never good enough.
Maybe it’s a lifetime of being the smaller, younger brother. Even the brother younger than him, eventually grew to be tougher and bigger, and they’d tease him about being a mama’s boy. More interested in things deemed soft by society, he was ridiculed by a lot of the extended family he loved fiercely.
Sensitive and thoughtful, but these things were still not expected of dads when I was growing up. More than once, a friend or schoolmate would remark in surprise at the idea that my dad painted my nails or that he made our birthday cakes.
It’s his birthday now, and while I haven’t spent one with him in a number of years before he passed, I wish I could go back for one more. I did visit in January quite a bit, but often the trip fell closer to Mom’s birthday than his.
Never one to make a big deal for himself, he’d celebrate with her. Everything was about her, and us. Sometimes, now, as I work my way through my grief, I’m mad at him. Resentful for not making it more about him the last few years. He was running himself into the ground between taking care of her and himself. When he was too sick to work, and felt like he was no longer providing, he was so depressed. So, he kept doing what he always did, because that’s what he knew.
Work for your family until you’re dead. Isn’t that the way his father did, and his father before him? Isn’t that the way so many fathers do, until someone finally breaks the cycle? I wish it had been him.
In those last few hours, we tried to remind him, to reassure him, that we were so grateful for everything. That his love, his dedication to our family meant a lot. I hope he left us knowing he was he was appreciated, he was loved.
Today, he’d be 68, and I hope that somewhere up there, he’s got a hot cup of fresh black coffee right next to his cake. A slice, not of chocolate as mom preferred, but of whatever flavor his heart desired.
My father loved me dearly, and I miss him just as much.