I’ve spent quite some time in heavy reflection over last year, a great deal of time spent specifically on you, though I don’t know why this particular year seems different; there isn’t a day of my life without you in it.
I’ve reflected on specific things like you teaching me how to play cards and checkers; you taught me strategy and how to really take the time to process what move was made and what move should correspond for the best result. “Sometimes you have to make a move you don’t like to get something greater,” you said when I griped about having to lose my King in order to gain two of yours. This is a lesson I wouldn’t really appreciate until much later in life.
I still laugh about my never ending lessons about footwear. I swear, I could have been leaving the house in less than something Miley Cyrus would wear and the only thing you’d have commented on was my shoes. “Shoes must always be sensible.” I never really got that. Most fathers would have grounded their daughter for life for wearing some of what I got away with. Not you. You were more concerned with whether or not my feet were properly adorned. (I still curse you in my head for love of good shoes.) It was great advice, you were right; there is an appropriate, comfortable shoe for every occasion. And you made sure I had two of each pair for every occasion.
I think about our conversations at your large, wooden desk, and remember feeling so physically small in comparison. I remember telling you this and I remember your reply: “But your mind isn’t small, Tiffer. I know you know that.” You were right. What you didn’t know is that you were the reason for that confidence.
I recall your larger-than-life hands taking the time to teach me how to shuffle cards like a pro, and I silently thank you for giving me the good sense to approach life as a card game; “play like your life depends on it.”
This was a reflection, after much emotional recall, that I was happy to stumbled upon.
I am often scrutinized for the way the last nine years have played out; whether it’s from friends or family, or inward criticism, I feel it. I feel like I’m just now coming out from under the that thumb and it feels amazing. No, I don’t have a degree, I got married too quickly and divorced just the same. I have moved back and forth countless times and struggled with indecision worse than anything else. “You are blessed to have such talents,” you’d say. I’d roll my eyes at you,but oh how I wish I hadn’t. I wish I’d asked you what I was supposed to do with my talent, to give me a direction. I should have known that you answer would be, “you have to find it for yourself.”
I have fumbled through it all, trying to make the best decisions while bearing in mind what I thought you would have wanted for me. That being said, I have finally arrived at the conclusion that no, you wouldn’t be disappointed. I know you’d see my efforts and my zeal and zest for life and smile. I may not have done things traditionally or correctly the first time, but I am confident in the fact that I manage to circle around to what’s right, and that’s all thanks to your lessons on how to make the right choices. I have no doubt that now, you’d shake my hand and hug me and proudly say, despite whatever personal check-marks I haven’t cleared yet, and in a voice I miss so much, that you are proud of me.
All of your advice still resounds, but it all sounds different now. Age has a way of enhancing perception; I wish I would have known this nine years ago.
While you were alive, I know you tried to instill in me many things, though I don’t think I took your lessons to heart until I had to learn them without you. Of course I took your words, measured them and cherished them, but it is something entirely different altogether to really put them to work and see the results.
I think I held on to my anger over losing you so tightly and for so long because it felt like it came too early, I wasn’t ready to lose you though I knew you were suffering. It was such a pivotal time and I felt that I was never going to be able to move past it. Until a few years ago, it was like you weren’t gone, just waiting to come back at the right time to correct everything that had gone wrong; to correct the shit I really thought I’d ruined. What I didn’t understand then was that you’d already given me the tools to move forward, I just wasn’t ready to use them. Stubborn is a characteristic that I inherited from you, no doubt.
I won’t lie, there were a few times over the course of my marriage and through my divorce that I would cry in the shower or in my car and bellow out at you for not being around for any of it, though I knew you weren’t to blame. No dad to walk me down the aisle, no dad to lean on, no dad to help clean up the mess that had become my life. I was distraught at times; I knew I wouldn’t have made half of the shitty decisions I had if you’d have still been alive. It wasn’t until very recently that I realized….the day you slipped away from me nine years ago on a beautiful fall afternoon was a demonstration of strength. Your tired, final sigh eased my mom’s pain, though I know her heart ached then and probably does now (though hopefully only a little.) The moment I lost you was the moment I had the choice to crumble or be strong, and I made the decision without thinking; something you taught me to do, blindly.
I think about it now and I didn’t cry much the week before the funeral. I thought it was because I was numb (and I was, to a degree) but it wasn’t just numbness or anger or hollowness. It was me demonstrating your same strength because my mom needed it, and you always put her first, so I was doing the same; I was – and am- an extension of you. When you’re nearly nineteen and your dad leaves the world, you don’t have many options except to do as your told, and in my mind, you were telling me to keep playing my cards and keep my eyes open.
Everything I’ve learned, the human that I am today, though you’re not here to see what she’s become, has been shaped by your hands and the perfect help-mate that is my mother, whom you chose. When I was growing up you taught me so many things: cards, checkers, how to dress and behave like a lady, how to manage money, how to love, how to find passion and run with it, how to travel, how to grill, how to sleep on the couch comfortably…and those are just a few tiny things I can list off the top of my head. None of that touches what I’ve learned from you over the last almost-decade, and you haven’t breathed or walked this earth in that time.
Because of you, I am fearlessly passionate and focused. I am grounded in my own beliefs, which you taught me were okay to have despite what others may say. Because of you I make better decisions, regarding life, love and footwear. Because of you, I’m me.
Your life, and the absence of it, still continues – and will always – to teach me in ways I cannot possibly fathom.
I miss you.
I love you.
Nine years, and.