Life’s trials can really test your courage and expressing that in writing can be difficult, too. It makes you all the more vulnerable, but oftentimes in a beautiful way. I tried to write about the relationship between me and my biological father last year right after he passed away from cancer. I felt like people could relate to my story — after all, everyone has known and loved someone who has passed from this debilitating condition.
But the piece didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. I was raw — both in the emotional sense from the pain of loss, and in the physical sense due to the birth of my third daughter. So much was happening, and I felt burdened under the tremendous weight of it all. That writing certainly showed it. It was titled, “When Hello and Goodbye Coincide.” Today I am going to revisit that time and take a more totalitarian outlook and hopefully pass on a good bit of advice I’m still working on taking myself.
Even when it’s awkward, make the call.
Now I am notorious for shying away from phone calls. I’ve even been guilty of placing a pizza order online just to avoid the voice on the other end. It’s strange, and I’m not sure why an otherwise outgoing and (mostly) well-adjusted person would behave this way. I rehearse simple phrases in my head — how I’ll start off the conversation, what objective I want to achieve. I remind myself not to stutter or clear my throat or use unnecessary fillers in my speech. I overthink and over-analyze like it’s my job.
Growing up, my father and I were often distant. Even when we were in contact and both trying to establish a relationship, it seemed like we both kept a little distance. For me, maybe it was for protection. I can’t say definitively why he seemed that way. But I believe it was not intentional; it was just his way. He didn’t seem totally comfortable expressing emotion; he tried to show his love in more tangible ways in buying something. I appreciated the gestures, but I craved a deeper connection with my biological father. I know we certainly loved each other, but the pang of regret remains because we couldn’t break down each other’s emotional walls. If I could go back, I would give a little more and really seek that connection. It’s human nature, and we can all be guilty.
I encourage you to reach out if you’re estranged from a loved one, or to call a little more often even when life is busy or pride is in the way. In short, don’t just make the call, but try your best to make that call count. You never know what tomorrow holds.
Even after my father was very sick, we didn’t have the difficult talks. I wish we had.
I remember pleading with myself internally to make more memories, but I didn’t want to feel like it was superficial or putting on a show in some way.
I wished for a sincere moment of epiphany and peace; to know that when he left this world, he knew there were no loose ends or words unsaid.
But as much as we tried, it doesn’t feel like we figured it out. I miss him terribly still, not only for the man he was to me, but for all
the potential moments we could have shared; the man he could have been to me and my daughters as time marched on.
September 15th would have been his birthday. And despite my better judgement, I probably would have sent a text or forgotten altogether as the day progressed. I sang Happy Birthday to him last year for the first time, but he was so progressed in his sickness, I’m not sure how much got through. I wish it hadn’t taken terminal illness to make that moment happen.
I plead for all of you, myself included, to swallow your pride and make the call. Never hesitate when it comes to telling your special people you love them. Grudges are petty after all, and love supersedes them always. So always lead with love.