Sunday, July 7, 2013

Robert Duckworth

When I was 4 my dad took me to Disneyland.

We got on A Small World. I watched as the dolls twirled and turned, sang and danced.

It was too much for me, for my small eyes. I turned my head into my father, smelling his scent- smoke and cologne and sweat. I fell asleep, waking only as he carried me off, my small head cradled by his hand.

As I took my own children on A Small World this week, I watched their faces. Wonder and happiness shone from them bright as the sun. I pulled them to me, kissing their foreheads, smelling their scent.

As I knew my own father lay dying hundreds of miles away.

I spoke to him twice over the phone. I told him what I wanted him to know- that I loved him beyond reasoning, that I would always miss him. That it was okay for him to let go and I would see him again.

The words came easily, slipping from my lips into his ears, into his heart.

And at 3 AM on July 4th, after my brother had gone home to rest, my daddy slipped away.

The man I have loved since I had no memory is gone.

To say our relationship was easy would be a lie. It was a back and forth ocean of expectations, of disappointment, of hurt.

But to say I didn't know I was loved is a lie as well.

I always knew I was loved by my father. Always.

My memories of the man who could never bear to see me cry are endless. His words were always few, but he never hesitated to tell me he loved me.

I remember him in bits and pieces. In sun soaked memories of Vegas heat, of Nebraska greeness.

I remember a cold winter morning. I had moved back to Nebraska just a few months before. I was heartbroken, sad, and lonely. I woke up and got ready for my job. I cried as I brushed my hair, as I sipped coffee. I was broken by life.

I gathered my things, buttoned my jacket, and prepared to do battle with the snow and ice on my car.

Only to find it running, my windhshield cleared, the inside warm.

My father waved from his window in his house next door. He smiled and turned away.

This is how I will remember him.

He never was able to fix everything in my life. He never was all I wanted him to be. But he was what he could be. He gave in his own way, even if it wasn't what I needed. And he loved me.

And I loved him. And he was my daddy.

Tomorrow we will celebrate him. A man who was deeply flawed, but also deeply good.

A man who struggled with drinking, but a man who was also sober and kind for long periods of time.

A man who gave what he could to his children. Who never spoke a judgemental word to us.

A man who took his grandchildren, all of them, camping. Who taught them to fish, loaded them up with sugar, and sent them home.

His face was weathered by the sun and by time, his gray hair full and always neatly cut and combed.

Always with a cup of coffee in one hand, a cigarette in the other.

Tomorrow we will celebrate an imperfect man, made whole and perfect as he crossed into Heaven to be with God.

I can't say my tears won't be tinged with bitterness. I won't lie and say I have no regrets.

But I also know to my core that if he were here in front of me he woulnd't hesitate to tell me to stop crying and forget all of that.

I loved him, and he is gone. My heart is broken for what was, and for what wasn't.

One day I will see him again.

Godspeed, Daddy.