Forcing myself to write…even if it’s not good writing. My hope is that by forcing myself to do it without ant concern or worry of the quality, the tone, the content, or the value, then I might slowly regain my voice again. I need my voice. I need my voice even if no one ever reads my words. I need my voice even if no one believes me. I hope to someday think and feel eloquently again and write that, but until then, forced it is.
Living in my daddy’s big old house is an experience that fully defines the adjective, bittersweet. I head into the kitchen where my dad spent the majority of his time in the 24 years he lived in this house… I head in there to make something for lunch. It is, like me, a contradiction and maybe that’s precisely why I’m so comfortable within that very discomfort? However, this goes far beyond a mere contradiction straight to bittersweet…all contradictions at one time – a simultaneous infusion of emotions, memories, thoughts, words, expressions, situations, and people…pushing right up against each other, smacking each other around the edges of what defines them.
I head into his kitchen… and standing in there as I think of what I might want to whip up for lunch, the urge to be given one more chance to cook for him stings. It stings like 5,000 wasps have landed on my heart and my gut…and they’re angry. They sting all at once and so viciously that my eyes water, screaming for that moment of relief tears would bring. I usually fight them though, almost as though I don’t deserve to cry; as though I don’t deserve that millisecond of relief when the tears finally roll. And I want so badly to just call out through the house into the living room where my daddy is watching golf, some old western movie, or maybe a country music video, Hey Daddy? Can I make you some lunch? I want to so badly because I think of the million times I could have hollered that out…and didn’t. And from there, I think of the 200 zillion delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that man made me over my lifetime. I think of my favorites. I think of him asking me what I would like to eat as though I were in a restaurant and anything could be whipped up at my desire. I think of later years as an adult how every single visit to daddy’s house was greeted with, Hey baaaaaby (that BIG SMILE lighting up his whole face)! There’s some beef stew/spaghetti/steak/biscuits and gravy/ Hamburger Helper/tuna salad/prime rib/barbecue ribs/potato salad (enter any number of delicious Southern dishes in here). Are you hungry?
I need to DO something FOR HIM….do something without asking anything first or in return or anytime within the next week or month or best yet, year, from him. I’m hit with the undeniable, painfully fervent need to do for him…take care of him…serve him… you see, this was who he was. He did this all my life for me and then when I had two children, he simply added two more people to serve up his kindness and generosity, his time and undivided attention, his compassion, his wisdom…all things that he could serve us laced with his love. And my daddy had a great big love for us. In fact, great big doesn’t really even begin to describe it. This man – this old-fashioned, hardworking, traditional values, classic southern man would serve us like a slave maid. And always did so with a BIG smile and happy heart, with never a single complaint or a whine or a tiny hint of much-deserved martyrdom guilting techniques or sighs. No. He served us like princesses and was unbelievably joyful to be doing it. Nothing was too much for him to do for us. Absolutely nothing.
(Side note: a great irony to this massive, unlimited, willingness to give and serve we three girls he loved so great big are the hundreds of stories my mother told me growing up about my dad. There were countless ugly stories where he was some kind of chauvinist pig demanding maid, cook, and personal service while selfishly not contributing whatsoever. Actually, worse even than simply not contributing, the stories were more along the lines of, “Your dad didn’t care one bit if we had food in the house or if we all starved to death. There were so many times I didn’t know how I would feed you two kids. Your dad would go on binges for weeks at a time when I didn’t know where he was or when he was coming back or when we would eat again.”)
So, as I step in that kitchen where the majority of 24 years’ worth of memories were made, I desperately want to serve him even just for one split second…serve him as unselfishly, joyously, and eagerly as he did me and my two children. I want to show him how happy I would be to do for him even if it’s just bringing him a cup of coffee. I’m learning so much about my flaws, my weaknesses, my shortcomings throughout the nightmare of the past two years. In my daddy’s kitchen, I realize the bottomless depth of my fears…and I grasp the fullness of my excuses. I may not be one for blame so much, but I’m certainly the queen of excuses: legitimate excuses, ridiculous excuses, emotional excuses, any number of those pesky little stupid explanations for why.
Why… is always such a painful question. Ouch!
You see, I realize so much now that although I am by nature as giving and loving as my daddy (thank you for that characteristic by the way, Daddy!), I’m the laziest perfectionist you could ever know. Therefore, in spite of my eagerness to do for others – and particularly my beloved daddy – I would rather do nothing than do something in return that could never come close to measuring up to the gift I’ve received. And it always seemed anything I could have done for my daddy would be akin to putting a drop of water back in the ocean after taking enough out to fill 500 Olympic sized swimming pools. If I can’t return a favor equally or better yet, in spades more than I have been given, then I typically don’t do anything at all. Pretty flawed logic, huh? And the bottom line truth of me is that I never had any remote degree of physical, mental, emotional, or financial abundance to ever come even close to matching what my daddy gave and did for me and my children all my life. So, I typically did very little in return other than chronically express my hopes and prayers that “someday” I would be able to do something great big and wonderful in return. I mean, I expressed gratitude and gratefulness, love and appreciation daily, I honored birthdays and Fathers’ days in every way I was able albeit usually smaller ways than I’d have liked and constantly professed my love for him, and I did most everything he ever asked of me which was very rare and usually minor. And meanwhile, out of my desire to match up to his giving magnitude, I did practically nothing of those little daily graceful kindnesses in return. Never realizing how much those little drops in the ocean could have been accumulating over the years…before time ran out.
Standing in my daddy’s kitchen deciding what to make for lunch, the sheer volume of his grace and blessings on me over my 44 years wash over me like a fresh splash of a gigantic salty ocean wave. I am humbled to my knees by it. And as it washes over me, it stings a million tiny cuts in my skin of all the lost opportunities I didn’t get to do for him and burns with the dreaded realization that death makes those little and big opportunities gone forever.