Daddy. A child's name for her father. It was only in my childhood that I knew you, so I suppose it's natural that, in my deepest heart, that's how I think of you. I saw you only twice as an adult, that last time in 1985 at your mother's funeral.
I learned today in an email - an email! - that, at the age of 93, you have died. I once said that when you died at least you wouldn't be able to hurt me anymore. Because each day of my life I have borne the pain of your abandonment. I have tried to forget, but I never have.
Tonight, feeling the loss of you, I would choose to remember only the good. I would prefer to think of the tall, handsome Cowboy, the man who taught me to fish, taught me to shoot, the man whose love for the wild and the woods gives me such an appreciation for the places of trees and water and silence where I live today. I would choose, if I could, to remember only the pleasant times. The trips to the state fair, seeing Roy Rogers in person, the rides in the back of your truck down long, dark highways and the rides on the Ferris wheel when you kept me safe from my fears.
If I could, I would choose to remember only the man whose shoes I lovingly untied at night after you had worked long days. The man who always seemed larger than life, who was, when I was a child, my Hero. I would like to remember only how special I felt as a child that I - only I! - have the same dimple in my chin that you had. And how, secretly, I loved seeing that dimpled chin in my youngest son and youngest grandson, knowing that even unto the third generation there was a mark that connected me to you.
But into these thoughts and memories and secret treasures, reality will intrude. I'm compelled to remember the callous way you left us without food while you spent your time with your cronies. Your unconcern when we lost our home after you and mom divorced. Your refusal to see your daughters and your grandchildren when you last had the chance.
I can't escape the sorrow I have felt for my sons, for my niece and nephew, because they have never known a grandfather. When I told them you had died, none of them shed a tear; their only concern was for me and for my brother and sister. You, their grandfather, were only an abstraction. A man whom they knew I loved and missed having in my life, but who had no relationship to them.
Your loss was much greater than theirs. You have five wonderful grandchildren: four men and one woman who are the pride of their parents and were the joy of their granny's life - our mother, the woman you left to raise us alone. And from these five young people have sprung a new generation - your great-grandchildren. Beautiful, intelligent, loving young people who will only know you through the bitter screen of their mothers' vision. You could have been surrounded in your old age with love and joy and the knowledge that you live on. Your loss, but also theirs.
Your other sons, Rodney and Jimmie - your second family - will miss you, I am told. Perhaps your redemption was in being everything to them that you never were to us. I hope it was enough for you. I hope you found peace and solace in their world.
My heart is heavy tonight, but I am pondering how to mourn a man who left my life so many years ago. I certainly don't feel the raw, heart-rending grief I felt when mom died. I've had many, many years to absorb the sorrow of your loss. But this time, of course, is different. No longer can I hang onto even that very thin thread of hope for reconciliation. Oddly, I feel the loss of you afresh; it's almost as if a hole has been rent in the fabric of my life.
Daddy, I love you and I miss you. I pray that God will welcome you and hold you close. I pray that someday we will be reunited, and that all the pain and sorrow will be forgotten. I commend you to God. May you truly rest in peace.