Sunday, October 11, 2009

Daddy's Girl

My father is dying. Renal cancer, they say. How long? Month to month is the best they can give us. Two to three months is the most we can hope for.

I sat with him on his front porch in Palmyra last week. It was a beautiful day; sunny, but cool. I was trying to decide how to say goodbye to someone who showed me what a man should be. I wanted to tell him thank you for never missing one event. Whether I was a flower with no lines in a third grade play. Or marching the wrong way in a debut performance on a high school football field. I wanted to thank him for that talk about boys and their lies when I hit puberty. I was going to tell him that even then when I realized he was once the kind of boy he was warning me about and his star lost a bit of shine, he was still the brightest one in the sky. I wanted to remind him of the day we spent in New York city and ice skating at Rockerfeller. "Ta-da" is the old family joke and we still chuckle at that. That's still just for us.

I wanted to look into those kind blue eyes with the star bursts at the corners and let him know that because he believed in me even as I wandered aimlessly through those early adult years, I believed in myself. I wanted to tell him that I have always been and will be until the day I die; a Daddy's girl. He was the first man I ever loved and the one I will always measure others against. I needed him to show me how to say goodbye.

But he slept with the cup he refused to let me hold slowly tilting toward the ground. The pain medication he takes allows him little time out of the fog. But his face was pain free and that's all that mattered to me. So we sat out there together as the wind chime played in the breeze. I closed my eyes and listened to the wind moves it way through the trees and tried to let it bring peace to my aching heart. I opened my eyes to see the tops of the trees bend and sway with the wind as it moved through and I realized something.

Those trees are close but separated most of the time. But when a strong wind blows through, they move in synchrony or are finally allowed to embrace. When things calm down, they are back to standing strong and tall; close but separate. I couldn't help but smile at the message being played out in the dance of the trees. I looked over at my dad, his face slack with fatigue and muscle loss. I wanted to say so much, but that opportunity has gone. I can speak, but he can no longer maintain an alert state in which to carry on a conversation.

The wind isn't done with us yet. As long as I live, I will be Kenneth Smith's eldest daughter. Thank God for that. Thank God for him. I thank God that I was blessed with a father that I will miss for the rest of my life. I thank God that we had the type of relationship that will always allow me to be a Daddy's Girl.