I stood halfway down the street, as straight and tall as a seven year old could stand, sobs wracking my body. About twenty yards from the front of my house, perhaps thirty from the entry to our cul-de-sac, I watched as my father drove away. It was not the first time we had bid each other farewell. It would not be the last.Our many good-byes, over the years, should have toughened me up. My parents’ divorce, when I was four, led to different homes and days and nights of separation. Eventually, it meant living in different towns. And, as I grew and matured and my ideologies and theologies changed, it meant that my father and I lived in different worlds. For, as I evolved in one direction, my father evolved in the opposite.
I’m not sure why we let it happen. Surely we knew better. We’ve all seen it happen to others. We’ve seen the complications, the grief that happen when families are torn asunder. And yet, our family was not immune to the damages done when religion and politics become more important than love. It’s hard to mend broken fences when it feels as if the fence posts have been used as weapons.
Phone calls change from how-are-yous and I-love-yous to disagreements and tension. Family gatherings become opportunities for diatribes and judgment.
I’d enter my dad’s presence with thanksgiving and leave full of anger, resentment, confusion. I’d wonder why he couldn’t put his opinions aside and let love reign. But, being my father’s daughter, I was not blameless. He’d fire a shot. I’d fire back.
And so, thirty years were wasted. Thirty years of being a burr under his saddle and a constant source of disappointment for him. Thirty years of allowing a relationship to dissolve, decay.
I’ve been saying good-bye to my daddy all my life. I’ve said good-bye after family
gatherings and phone calls, after good times and bad. And yesterday, I said good-bye as I stood at his hospital bed, caressing his forehead, holding his hand, telling him that he was surrounded by love, both ours and God’s, and trying my best to help ease him from this life to the next.
Love doesn’t die. Despite opposing viewpoints. Despite frustrations and difficulties, years apart and months of silence, love doesn’t die.
Sometimes I wish it would. But I am my father’s daughter. And I will weep for him, once again. I will weep as we say this final good-bye.