It has been a year since we held your hand and told you we loved you, even though you couldn’t respond. It has been a year since we performed last rites and you that you could go.
It has been a year of grief—of missing you. And a year of relief that the “real” you is either released or at peace, gone forever. I’m still not sure which I believe.
It was five years of watching you descend further and further into darkness. Watching you follow your family legacy of alcoholism straight into the grave. And I’m terrified, sometimes, that I will follow in your footsteps. Because dulling it all with alcohol is sometimes easier to do.
You were not always a good dad. You put everything and everyone in front of your daughters, for most of our life. You brushed us aside for what you needed, which was to belong—to be in that club where looks and wealth and popularity and materialism and showing the world that you had “made it,” that you were someone, was vastly more important. You needed that. You needed to prove to the world that your hard work had paid off—that you had the wife and the house and the car and the popular stepdaughter that showed your worth to everyone—to you.
We embarrassed you at times, with our shitty clothes and our shitty cars. We didn’t marry into wealth. We chose to marry for friendship and affection and love instead. And you loved us, but you didn’t really see us.
And then it all came crashing down. You lost the wife. Then the house. Then the car. Then the job. And then her children. Her grandchildren.
All you had left was us. Your two daughters, who had loved you all along. And we picked you back up, as best as we could. We put the pieces back together, as best as we could. We reached out to the family that had left you behind, as best as we could, to be kind to you—to be gentle with you—to love you.
And by god if you didn’t finally see us— at 65 years of age, you finally saw what had been staring you in the face but that you had refused to see for all of those years—that you already had a family that loved you. That you had two daughters and two sons-in-law and two grandchildren who had been there the whole time, waiting for you. And that despite your misgivings about us, despite our lack of fancy cars and fancy houses and weekly salon trips, we were well rounded. We were kind. We were intelligent. We were funny. We were loving.
And I hope you enjoyed those few years, because I know we did. We worried about you being alone. Constantly. And we loved you constantly.
The loneliness was too much for you, though, and you got a new family—again. And slowly phased us out, again. And began your final descent. But we kept loving you.
I remember Mom getting so very angry with me—so angry with Kendra—as we tried so hard to continue to prop you up. Why didn’t we just cut our goddamn losses and move on? But she couldn’t. And I couldn’t. And we didn’t. Because you were our dad, and we still loved you. Despite the hurt. In spite of the hurt.
And you’re gone now. We saw you through. It was ugly. It was hurtful. It made us both crazy for very long periods of time. It made our own lives miserable. But we honored you. Because that’s what we were raised to do. And because that’s what we wanted to do.
And I hope that somewhere, wherever you are, you are proud of your daughters. For their strength. Their perseverance. Their honor. Their love. Because you really did make it very tempting to walk away and never look back. But love won, dammit.
I grieve that it took you 40 years to get to know your daughters. I grieve that you never really got to know your grandchildren, and that they don’t share our sadness that you’re gone.
I hope that you can occasionally still see us. And are proud of who we’ve become. And always, I will love you.