This is a piece that I wrote in December of last year
I am my father’s daughter were the words that ruminated in my mind as I boarded my plane home from Tennessee last night. I smiled. I felt the peace settle into my spirit and realized that I am truly happy. Happy to know my father.
I shared my story earlier this year about how my father was an absentee father and how I learned to forgive him. I did forgive him. We started to build that bridge and get closer. I thought we had all the time in the world until he asked me to call him. It was early October.
I did call him. “I have cancer daughter” were the words that he uttered. I broke out in tears. The sobs of a child in mourning were muffled as I covered my mouth and closed my office door. “What” I stammered. “I have cancer baby” he replied. I went numb. He talked about seeing the doctor and his acceptance.
My dad had accepted that it was okay to not want to do treatment. I’ve lived a long life he says. “Dad, you’re 60, that’s not long” I muttered. However, he seemed okay with that. He was tired he told me. He wanted to die. I wanted more time. I wanted memories. How could I make up for the last 31 years missed if he was checking out? How could we get to a place of peace?
I realized a critical point in my life. I had to try. I had to truly forgive and get back to knowing this man. That’s all I could do. I cried. I left work in tears because I couldn’t bear the thought of the man that I was publicly admitting that I loved to not be here anymore. Time was slipping. Time was invaluable. Time was what I wanted. More time. I booked my flight home to Tennessee the following month and began about the task of making sure that I could create some memories.
Memories were just what I created over Thanksgiving. I spent days with my dad and family. Laughing, crying, eating and just visiting him. He spent many days in a melancholy mood obsessing over the past. He was remorseful when he talked about seeing me in 2004 and how he ignored me. He let the tears roll down his face as he said, “I’m so sorry baby”. I smiled and with tears in my eyes I said, “I know daddy. I forgive you. The same God that has granted me grace and mercy all these years has given me the gift of forgiveness.”
I learned so much about my dad and my dad’s family during my brief visit that I am in awe that it took this long. This long for me to know my dad. To know his family. To know his life. To hear him openly talk about his other children with other women. There are at least eight of us. I am the first born girl. The oldest girl he says with pride.
I don’t know if I’m happy that there are so many children that I don’t know, but what I do know is that I will no longer hold on to the past. I will no longer hold him hostage to the pain in my heart because time with him is of the essence. The time we spend is more valuable than holding on to the pain. In this space between peace and forgiveness is a grown woman who openly proclaims that I am my father’s daughter.
I have his eyes. I have his stubborn nature. I have his laugh. I am his. He is mine and even though our time is not known, I promise to spend every minute loving and appreciating this man for who is now.
© Tikeetha Thomas