This one is not about melanoma. I wrote this 8 years ago, about a month before my dad passed away, for a writing class I was taking. I have been meaning to share it with others for years, and felt that today it would make a nice tribute and share a great lesson for anyone who is a daughter, a father or mother to a daughter, or plans to be a father or a mother.
My dad was livid.
He was yelling. I was yelling.
I had just broken the antenna on our brand new cordless phone. I couldn’t believe this was happening, not on this night, not over a stupid phone. I stormed into my bedroom.
Later, my dad knocked on the door. I expected it. My dad always apologized and said, “I love you” after arguing with one of us. But on this night, the night of my thirteenth birthday, my dad began to cry as he spoke to me. He said, “I’m sorry I yelled at you. It’s just that you’re thirteen now, and I am having a hard time dealing with it.” He paused, and then added, “I’m sad that my little girl is growing up.”
Today, I am a 30-year-old daughter. I don’t have any children yet, but my fiancé does. His daughter is 13 and, like my dad and I, those two go back and forth over many issues. The biggest issue is boys. She likes them. He prefers she doesn’t. Not now anyways. My first impulse is to intervene on her behalf. I tell him that he’s being unreasonable. I argue, “She’s growing up, and you can’t stop her,” but, similar to arguing with my dad as a teen, I get nowhere.
Recently, while listening to one of their arguments, I heard my fiancé tell his daughter, “I miss the days when you were younger and you loved your dad. We used to have a great time together. Now you’re embarrassed to be seen with me.” I immediately pictured my dad sitting in my room on my thirteenth birthday. I realized he was trying to reach out to me that night. How long had it been since I enjoyed our time together? How long had I been embarrassed to be seen with him?
My eyes were suddenly opened to my dad’s point of view. I began to reflect on our moments together. It occurred to me that he longed for a closer relationship, but was unsure of how to achieve it. Both of us were. I talked to my dad about everyday things like school and my job, but I never discussed my deepest feelings or fears with him. I never told him how much it hurt when my first love broke up with me. I never told him that I felt guilty for not visiting my grandpa just before he died. I never told him how I hated myself for not following my dream of being a dancer. I never told him that I struggled to trust me after my last boyfriend made so many empty promises. Telling wasn’t my only problem. I never asked either. I never asked him what it felt like to lose his dad. I never asked him how he handled not following his dream of being a pilot. I never asked him how he knew my mom was the one, or how he felt when he asked her to marry him. It was always my mother with whom I shared the intimate details of my life. Why was I so uncomfortable talking about those things with my dad? Did I think because he’s a man, he wouldn’t open up? Or was it because I felt I would disappoint him if he knew too much about me?
As a result of my reflection, I’ve begun to share more with my dad, but it’s under different circumstances. A year ago, my father had a heart attack. He lost oxygen to his brain and went into a coma. He doesn’t talk or react much when I see him, but many of the nurses have told us, “Hearing is the last thing to go.” So I take advantage and tell him more about me and my life than I ever have. Only now I will never have the chance to know the answers to so many questions I have bout his life.
Now, when I hear my fiancé and his daughter arguing, I want to intervene on his behalf. I want to shout, “Get to know your dad. Ask him about his feelings and experiences. Share your feelings and experiences with him. Help him to deal with his little girl growing up. Forget the boys for a while longer and appreciate the man you already have in your life. Do it now before it’s too late! No other man will ever love you as much. No other man will ever love you the same.”
My dad would come home on his lunch breaks to feed me.
My high school graduation