My father would have been 86 years old today, and to be honest, I can’t imagine what he would have been like at that advanced age. This is kind of funny given that my mom is 85 and pretty kick-ass in spite of her elder status—or maybe because of it. She has more energy than most people far younger, and more interest in the world at large than many people of any age. And she can throw back a shot like nobody’s business, too.
My dad died back in 2001, which seems like a lifetime ago now. I still miss him everyday and something brings him to mind several times each day. I wish he could see all of his grandkids now—he would be so very proud and pretty fascinated by their ‘adult’ selves.
As I got ready for work today, I was thinking about my dad and something that happened a very long time ago. When I was in my early teens, one of my cousins got married. This was in the mid 70s most likely and I was in my most self-conscious, angsty teenager period. The reception was at a club hall of some sort, or maybe it was a church hall and super-casual at best. A trio of musicians played music and I’m not even certain if there was other music going on in between or not. I just remember there was dancing. And I felt awkward and teenager-ish and out of my element with so many cool—or maybe they were groovy, given the time period—people five to ten years older than me.
My parents were dancing. They were always dancing. They were out there, cutting a rug and having a great time. They didn’t care what anyone thought—they just had fun. Then my father came over to me and he asked me to dance. No, I said. I don’t want to dance. C’mon, he told me, with a smile on his face. He was excited to have his daughter dance with him. No, I said, just a little bit more adamant this time. People turned toward us. He asked again and again I demurred and most likely with a bit of an attitude, shaking my head. He walked away and I vaguely remember my mother saying something, probably because she knew he was hurt by my refusal.
At the time, I didn’t much care that he was hurt. I was mortified to think that anyone would expect me to dance in public in such a place with all of these people that I didn’t know but was so sure would be paying close attention to my every move, particularly on the dance floor. I bet now, looking back, that my father thought I was too embarrassed to dance with him, or just didn’t want to be out there dancing with my father of all people—he had no idea that it was me that felt stupid and it had nothing to do with him. So we both were in our own quiet hells for a short while, not realizing how the other felt or why.
The thing is, we would have never have had the conversation; the one in which he would say, “You know, I would have really liked to dance with you tonight. How come you didn’t want to?” And maybe I would have said, “I felt stupid, Daddy. I felt like everyone would be looking at me and I didn’t really know what I was doing—or everyone would be looking at me, thinking I was a dope or something.” He didn’t ask and I didn’t approach him. And that’s the way a lot of my life with my father was like when I was growing up. He didn’t ask my brother or me these sort of things. We didn’t approach him with feelings like that. I’m sure that was typical in many families, but I wish it might have been different. I wish we might have had that comfort level, but we didn’t. It wasn’t his way.
It didn’t deter the love I had for him, though, and it certainly didn’t mean he didn’t love me. To this day, he is the standard I hold for intelligence, for loving me, for being there for me. I miss him every single day, and although I’m not a person that believes in regrets—I sure wish I had danced with him that day.
More memories in Daddy’s Little Girl.