thirteen years. it’s been thirteen years since daddy died – and while it seems like the events happened yesterday or maybe just this morning, in my heart it feels like he’s been away forever. i must’ve been a better person then because i told him it was okay to go, okay to die, and i knew it was the right thing to do. but now . . . there are days i merely second guess myself; other days i despise myself for that. why didn’t i tell him not yet, to stay with us, that i still needed him?
i still talk to him, you know, writing him letters – sometimes carrying on conversations right out loud. every year on my birthday, i pen him a letter saying simply “daddy, you were once the age i am now – what would you like me to know?” eventually i will be the age he was when he died. people in his family are bad to die young and in december (a trend i fully intend to break). this year, on my big birthday, he told me to live – to cut loose and flat-out live. “what have you got to lose?” he asked, “the things you want to do don’t hurt anybody, so go on, doll, do ’em.”
other times i ask for other kinds of help – like a week ago today when i implored him to hold off the predicted freezing rain, sleet, and snow at least long enough to give us time to make the 8-hour round trip to pick up my son, his fiancee, and mother and deliver us all safely back atop the mountain for a week of thanksgiving togetherness. he obliged. on saturday when the congestion started, complete with sore throat and chills, i asked him to please make it so i’d feel better the next morning when the travel started to return everybody to their respective homes. even though i thought that request quite impossible, i woke up yesterday morning feeling fine and have ever since – no more coughing, no more scratchy throat, just enough congestion to allow me to sing my favorite songs without having to jump octaves. he still takes good care of me, daddy does, though i try not to impose too often because each request seems like i’m calling him in from the playground early.
it’s true: i can talk to him any time, but i want him here. i want him sitting at the table eating turkey. i want him touching his shoulders to his ears as he lets loose a belly laugh. i want him beaming with love and pride at kipp’s wedding next may. and don’t try telling me “he’s there” because i know he’s here in spirit, but i want to touch him. i want to feel his arms wrap me in a hug like nobody else on earth can do. i want to sit next to him and have him tell me his plans for the future and listen to mine, giving me his support for those he considers good ideas, candidly expressing his doubt or dislike for ideas he considers cockamamie. i want to talk to him, laugh with him, hear him tell me stories.
twice i’ve felt his rough, pudgy hands in dreams, and though it’s not nearly enough, i’m grateful for those two visits, hoping, hoping, hoping for more every night as i close my eyes.
he’s enjoying his life now, wherever he is – he’s told me as much in a variety of ways – and i know that i’m supposed to be happy about that . . . and i am . . . but oh good lord how i do miss him. right down to the cellular level there this deep, profound ache that varies in intensity, but never really totally disappears. i miss him part of every minute of every hour of every day, and i miss him most especially on the days that end with “y”.
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Jeanne Hewell-Chambers is not ashamed to tell you that she will always be her daddy’s doting little girl, and that her daddy will always be her Hero. Always, I tell you.