As I look at this picture I think of innocence. I think of beginnings. I think about how it was one of the few times my father ever looked happy. And I don't even remember it. This was my first Christmas. The year was 1969. I must have been about 6 months old and my dad was only 21. So young to be a father. Unfortunately he was already a well established alcoholic.
I realized at the end that he did the best he could. Our relationship was strained to say the least. It was very difficult to get along with him. He was not a happy man. I learned to forgive although I wish it had happened sooner. I waited till it was almost too late. The last time I saw him was last April for his 60th birthday. I hadn't seen him in a year since he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was grateful he invited me over to see him that day. That was something he never did. I almost didn't go.
He said "Next time I will be a better dad."
"You did the best you could." I replied.
He said "No, I did what was best for me."
As the tears began to roll down my cheeks I thought about how I wished this conversation had come along years earlier. When he walked over to me I knew it would be goodbye. He put his arms around me and I cringed at how broken his thin body felt. I heard him whisper "I love my little girl.". I cried as I thought about how this was something he never said and wished he didn't wait till it was too late. Although he didn't say it in his own way he showed me at the worst times of my life. He was with me when my husband died, he was with me when I was told I had cancer. Somehow when the chips were down in my life he pushed his way back in to be there for me. I didn't appreciate it at the time.
I thought he could be ok even with a cancer diagnosis. I was ok, I survived. I wanted him to survive too. This loss is tough for me both as a daughter and as a cancer survivor. I feel guilty sometimes that I am still here.
Even though I think of him often but on days such as this it always seems harder. I wonder if it is because it transports us back to the realness of that day, of that moment we got the news we never wanted to hear...