Dear Dad

I wish things had been different.  I wish I had known you before you disappeared, before things got crazy.  My memories are sketchy, so I don’t recall much.   There was a picture of me and my sister with you at the beach.  We looked like we had so much fun.  Others with you and that big smile, those kind eyes, the long hippy hair.  Mom said she loved you once.  There are the stories from the Aunts that loved you and said you were so cool.

I was 2 years old when we went to Vermont with you to live for a couple of years.  Gram and sis said I stayed with you so sis could go to school over by Gram’s house.  Sis and I stayed with you a couple of times in Tampa when you had that big Chow dog.  I stayed with you for the weekend when I was 14. That weekend, I felt like we talked more than we ever had, but I didn’t understand you.  It seemed like you still loved Mom, after all those years apart.  You seemed trapped in the past, like the world kept going, but something kept you from moving forward.  I didn’t come back after that weekend.  I didn’t mean to hurt you, I was a teenager, and all I cared about was getting my way.  Mom didn’t give me what I wanted, so I thought if I threatened to live with you, she would cave.  I was definitely wrong about that one.

In college, I lived so close to you, but never reached out.  What held me back?  What kept me away?  Fear.  Fear is a dirty four letter word.  It causes us to make decisions without logic.  Fear is a choice, but in the moment it doesn’t feel like it.  When I found out you died, I was in shock.  The way you passed was more tragic than the life you led, and I wish I could have done something so that you weren’t all alone.  I did not know how to respond, what to say, what to feel, what to do.  I did not know you.  When the neighbor told us the story, it broke my heart.  Then she asked the questions that made me feel sick, like a bad person, like a terrible daughter.  She said, “Your Dad talked about you girls all the time, he was so proud of you and really loved you.  He was such a nice man.  Why didn’t you visit?  Why didn’t you call?”  How do you respond to that?  How do you explain to a stranger that she probably knew your father better than you did?  How do you explain that the months turned into years, and the years turned to decades.

I was 25 when you called to wish me a happy birthday.  It had been about 8 years since we had spoken, and I was overjoyed that you actually remembered my birthday.  I remember I was visiting Texas, and was at dinner in this incredibly beautiful place, where the sun sets over the valley with the water behind it.  I wore a green shirt and a brown skirt, and I couldn’t take the smile off my face or squelch the joy from my heart.  I felt special, I felt loved, I felt like you cared.  So, when you called me a week later and asked me for money, I was devastated.  I thought when you called on my birthday, that perhaps things could be different.  That you wanted to build a relationship, but from my perspective, you called to use me for money.  I never spoke to you after that.  You didn’t call back, and I didn’t have a number for you.  Looking back, and understanding the nature of your instability, I wish I had tried to have some kind of relationship, to at least know I tried to be a daughter to you.

Was it the years in service?  A mental health condition?  Fear of failure that kept you away, that kept me away?  Money helps, gifts are nice, but at the end of the day, all we ever wanted was to hang out with our Dad.  To get to know you, to understand you.  As the years went on, your health deteriorated, your stability faltered, your decision-making wavered.

Dad, I am sorry we did not know each other, and I pray that wherever you are, that you are at peace.  I pray the hard life you lived is behind you and that we can meet again one day and get to know each other.  Happy Father’s Day Alan M. Murdock.

Friends – Don’t wait until it’s too late to connect with the important people in your lives.  It may be difficult, but I would not wish the pain of my father’s death I endured on anyone.  If I had tried, at least I could have said I tried.  We make mistakes, we live, we learn and we do better moving forward.  

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