At the tender age of 4, I was my father’s princess. I was the ultimate priority. He was my hero and protector. The strongest man in the world. I was the quintessential “daddy’s girl.”
At 8 years old I was still his number one. Riding high on his shoulders, my face to the sky, I felt like I could accomplish anything.
At 12 years old, my parent’s divorce still ringing in my ears and teetering on the precipice of puberty, I wanted time with my friends. I started noticing boys and painting my nails. I was still a “daddy’s girl,” and my father was still my hero, but that hero wasn’t around as often. Not knowing how to express his feelings, he began to keep his distance.
At 15, when my first boyfriend broke my heart and I was crushed, I needed him. I needed him to tell me that I was better than that, that I could do better, that I deserved better, but he was nowhere to be found. I needed him to tell me that teenage boys are immature and that I deserved respect. Instead of the time I so longed for, gifts and money became my father’s way of showing love. A man who couldn’t find it within himself to show emotion to his adolescent daughter’s trials and triumphs thought he could make me happy and show me love with money. Looking back, I would have returned every cent, every tangible item if I could just get back his time.
At the ripe old age of 20, our relationship was built almost solely on humor and sarcasm. No sentiment, no real emotion. While I was absolutely still “daddy’s girl,” I kept it hidden away behind a rough and hardened exterior. After all, I had been taught that emotion showed vulnerability and vulnerability showed weakness. We could have none of that.
At 22, after months of unexplainable health scares, my father was diagnosed with a large brain tumor. Life as he knew it would forever be changed. It was only then that he took the time. The time to tell me that he was proud. The time to tell me that he loved my future husband as if he were his own son. The time to try to explain why he never took the time. It was because HE were running out of time. But he was still my hero. A strong, iron willed man, so resilient that death was inconceivable or so I thought.
In the hospital learning that the very thing that helped to remove my father’s cancer was the very thing that was taking him away from us was surreal. The decision to turn off the machines was not an easy one. He began to respond to my voice, tears running down his face as he gently squeezed my hand. I was vulnerable, he was vulnerable and it was not weakness, it was love. As he cried I could feel the sting of regret through his tear stained cheeks. My throat dry and voice cracking I said, “It’s ok. It’s ok to go.” Hours later my father took his last breath and left this earth. His time had run out. Our time had run out.
Why do we suppress our feelings? Why do we live our lives like there will always be another day? Why do we put off the people who mean the most to us? As another year approaches, I leave you with this message:
Fathers, be there for your daughters, regardless of age. Tell them you love them. Tell them how incredible they are. Spend time with them and cherish that time so that you never have to feel the ache of regret in your chest, wishing with all of your heart that you had more time. It’s ok to be vulnerable. Vulnerability shows honesty and courage, two traits that every father should demonstrate to their daughter. Lastly, love! Love fiercely and with reckless abandon. In love, time is not money, time is priceless.
Give the gifts of time and love this Father’s Day