And then this line popped out from her horoscope reading: It has not been possible to have a relationship with your father. Perhaps he disappeared when you were young. Tears welled up in her eyes. Her father had died when she was seventeen and she knew she had never really gotten over it.
Fathers and daughters are complex enough in their relationship, she knew this, but she had missed him everyday.
Her father had a quick and ugly temper, and she had been on the receiving end of it a number of times as a younger child, but that all changed when she became a teen-ager. They had developed a close relationship especially after he was diagnosed, for the second time, with cancer. After school her younger brother and sister would be out with their mother. Her brother would be swimming, her sister babysitting, and she and her father would sit in the living room talking about real things. Often he would pour her a small glass of sherry and they would sit across from each other in the wide expansive living room.
In large gatherings she would be snuggled up against him, but in these more intimate moments they chose to sit across where they could really see each other.
He talked about why they had moved to this neighbourhood and not a more upper class one. He talked to her about his value of people over things. He helped her through her first heartbreak, promising her that there would be someone who would love her for the woman she was. He was right about that, but he was dead long before she would meet her husband.
He talked to her about employment and how he felt one should behave towards their employer. His ideas were old-fashioned, but ultimately true and right. At least for her.
When he was very sick, blind and disfigured, he still would come out into the kitchen to meet her friends, and say hello and vet new boyfriends. She loved him for that. That he would put his pride aside to still be ‘the father’ in situations where ‘the father’ needed to show up.
Often she would arrive home from school, her grade twelve year, and her mother and sister would be in the kitchen, distraught and weeping. He would have refused to eat all day, saying he just wanted to die.
She would gather the tray with the stewed prunes, and boiled egg, and walk into his bedroom. He would be lying in the bed, on the left side, he had shared with her mother for thirty years. He would be listening to the radio, eyes closed, not that it mattered for by this time he was blind.
She would call his name softly. “Dad?” “Dad, you have to eat something.”
And he would. For her, he would eat.
She would sit with him while he ate, and they would listen to the radio together. They would joke about all the things he had won in radio contests. Over the years she would carry this torch, entering and winning numerous items from local radio stations.
Her mother had promised him he would die at home. Unfortunately, it was not a promise she could ultimately keep. He had fallen one day and she couldn’t get him up. He was moved to the veteran’s hospital. Even there, he stayed busy, hooking a pillow and making a pink elephant, both items she still had.
She would read him the paper, sitting on the end of his bed. She realized that she didn’t remember the last time she saw him. She remembers that he told her and her mother that his Dad had been in to visit him. His father had died twenty years before, so they all knew that he was close to crossing the veil and his father was there to guide him.
Her mother wouldn’t let her, or her younger brother or sister see him in the last weeks. To this day she regrets this.
And then, the morning of the first day of September, her mother had come downstairs to her room and told her he was gone. She hadn't know about "White Rabbit" then, and even if she had it wouldn't have mattered.
She wept, and railed against a God that would do this to him, to her, her siblings, her mother. And then she put on her game face and went upstairs to support her mother through the funeral, the paperwork, the wake.
That incident caused her to leave the church that she and her father had so loved. She didn’t return to it for twenty-three years, and when she did, it was to find him again. In her forties she was missing him so desperately that she legally added his surname as her middle name.
By now the horoscope reading was forgotten. There were too many things that just weren’t her. She didn’t like change, she wasn’t adventurous, she wasn’t a braggart, she wasn’t artistic, she didn’t care for material things, she didn’t demand aesthetic surroundings.
But she did have a father that had left her far too early and it was a relationship that she could never have. At least not in this life.
She thought, as she often did, how different her life might have been if he had lived. Would she have dated the men she did? Would she have married the man she did? Would she have shared her struggles with him? What advice would he have given her?
He, who had his own struggles with post traumatic stress disorder, although it wasn’t named that then.
She imagined meeting him across the veil. How disappointed would he be in her choices?
So disappointed in that to-do list for certain.
And her life? This gift she had been given to age far beyond the age he had been graced with in this incarnation? Why wasn’t she valuing that for his sake, if not for any other reason.
Living, with all of its struggles, was living in Grace.
So, she had Grace. She had her Faith. All she needed now was Hope.