Dear Daddy, These Are a Few Things You Taught Me

Dear Daddy,

I know your memory's not quite what it used to be. I know some days you are tired and it's hard for you to remember all the fun times and the hard times we've shared. But that's ok.  Because what you've taught me, I can never forget.

These days, when I talk to you, you ask me where I'm living now?  

"You're in China, aren't you?", is what you ask me on a good day.  On a bad day, you just ask me "Where are you, are you coming to see me soon?" 

I always answer "Qatar, Papa, je suis au Qatar."  And you always say, "Yes, yes, Qatar.  It's late over there, isn't it?"

And you usually say, "I'm so happy to hear your voice.  You know, you're all special to me.  All my kids.  But you, you were the baby.  And I can't forget holding you.  You were my baby.  You're still my baby.  I'll never forget you.  You're special, you know?"

And I don't know what to say.  Because my heart is breaking.  Because I know that eventually, you will forget me.  And I curse myself for hoping the cancer takes you before you lose the memory of me. 

Some days you forget my kiddo.  Some days you mistake Smilin' Vic for my first husband.  But I guide you slowly back to the pictures on your wall of my family today.  I give you their names.  And then you remember how much you love kiddo; how she sings to you sometimes.  You remember how good Smilin' Vic is for me.  And I laugh with you as you remember.  And a little part of me dies inside.  Because I know when I hang up, you will forget again.

Then you recall that I still have to be in the ME for a few years.  You recall that you lived your life as an expat.  The other night, I said "I'll see you soon Papa, real soon."  And you replied "No, no, you don't have to come.  I know you're doing what you need to do; you're making a life for you and your family.  I've been there.  I did that.  It's ok; you're like a recording of me.  But you know, sometimes in life you realize that it's harder to be the one receiving than giving." 

And I was crying inside, Daddy.  My heart was breaking.  But we both managed to laugh out loud. 

And that's one of the things you taught me.  

To laugh even when it hurts.

 Because usually when it hurts, it means we have the memory of something good.  We have the memory of something better.  You always told me that there was a balance in life, a full circle, that a loss meant you actually had experienced something great.  And that I had to learn to appreciate what I had lost.

You told me a story once.  About how as a young boy, you rode to the "city" with your father.  You and your brother, seated in the back of a horse-drawn sled, with hot bricks to warm your feet and a woolen blanket to stave off the cold.  As you rode into the "city" (a Northern New Brunswick town of about 6,500 pop. in 1935), you marveled at the homes of 'rich folk' built on foundations.  And you told yourself that if you ever had a foundation on your house, you would be a rich man.  And you told me that you'd been a rich man from the moment you built your first house and home, because you built it on a foundation.  You never wavered from that conviction, no matter what riches or temptations came your way.  And that's another thing you taught me.  

Realize what's important, and stick to it.

When I bought my first house, you said something scary to me.  "The happiest days of my life were when I had a mortgage with the bank, mouths to feed, bills to pay.  I had a reason to get up every day, a reason to go to work, a reason to come home."  And I thought "How very depressing, that these are the best days of my life, worrying about the bills."  But I've realized since that you were teaching me something very different.  

Understand your reason for being, embrace it, and live up to it.

After my first husband asked you for my hand in marriage, he told me that you had said this to him:  "Son, I know you love her for her qualities, but can you live with her faults?"  When I told you I was divorcing him, you listened to me quietly.  You didn't judge.  Even though I know it made you sad.  Even though it went against what you believed in (though in fairness, you hadn't been successful in the relationship department yourself!).  A few months later, you said to me "Well, if you ever remarry, make sure you get a diamond big enough to skate on before saying yes!".  And years later when I told you I was getting remarried, you said to me "Make sure he's not marrying you for your brains."  You left me totally confused.  Surely I didn't want to marry a man who loved me purely for my feminine wiles?

I only pieced it together a few years later.  I think I know now what you wanted for me.  Someone who would take nothing from me.   Someone who would love me because of, not despite, my eccentricities, my failings, my shortcomings.  Someone who would protect me.  Someone who would keep me safe.  No matter what.  No matter if I had nothing to give back.  Like you had done.  You wanted to be sure I would always have a safe place.  And what did I learn from that?

Always have a safe place.  And if you can, learn to BE that safe place for someone who needs it.

When I got my first job, you congratulated me, encouraged me, told me:

"If you find a job you love, you'll never work another day in your life."

 No truer words have ever been spoken.  

Here in the ME, I have struggled with my job.  For the first time in my life, for the last two years, I have gone to work day after day, hating what I do.  Three weeks ago, I handed in my resignation.  There may or may not be other opportunities out there, but for the time being, for the sake of my family and everyone I love, it is better to forsake the salary in the hopes of something better.  For a while, at least, I know I can turn to a job I love:  being a mom and a wife.

You have taught me so much.  

You have taught me that

silence shared with someone you love speaks to the heart.  

You have shown me that

there is merit in a hard day's work.  

You have shown me that

loving someone is truly letting them go.  

You have shown me that

laughter IS the best medicine.  

You showed me that

the best qualification for any job is "desire".  

You showed me that

the best way to live is without regret.  

You taught me that

all the degrees in the world don't compensate for lack of common sense.  

You taught me that

disrespecting my mother is unacceptable.

But the biggest thing you taught me was to enjoy the moment.  No matter how big, how small.  Enjoy the moment.  Don't ask for more.  Don't curse its passing.  Don't question it.  Simply enjoy the moment. 

Enjoy the moment. 

And tonight, as I think of you, trapped in that veil of forgetfulness that clouds your days and nights, I think it's appropriate that you should have been the one to teach me such a valuable lesson.  Because today I know that moments are all that remain.  Moments of pleasure, moments of pain, moments of anger, moments of sadness, moments of joy ... but all moments. 

There is no more continuum, no more sequence of events leading up to the end of your day.  Every moment you experience is a gift; every moment you experience is instantaneously forgotten, magically trapped and stored in a vault.  A vault to which no one has a key, not even you.  And I pray, I pray with all my might, that every moment you have left is a good one.  That you may experience only good moments from this moment on.  That at this very moment, as I write, as my heart aches for you and tears stream down my face, you may be experiencing an amazing moment of joy and love and rapture.  I pray that you may have peace in every single remaining moment; peace, laughter, joy, and rapture.

I pray that in those moments there is an occasional flash of all that you have taught me.

I love you Daddy. 


Images fade ... memories fade ... but everything you taught me Daddy, will be passed on.

Images fade ... memories fade ... but everything you taught me Daddy, will be passed on.