Dear adorable gentleman standing next to me in the store today,
I am sorry that I so rudely stared at you for about five minutes straight while you were trying to get assistance from an Apple technician with you iPad. I’m sure to you I seemed pretty rude and you were probably wondering why I was being so nosey. I can assure you that I didn’t hear a word of your conversation between yourself and the Apple technician. The thing is that I lost my Dad almost three months ago. When I glanced over at your hand holding your stylus, tapping on your iPad with such grace, a loose fitting wedding band on your finger, you reminded me so much of the Dad that I just lost. The handsome, charming, and gentle man who made my life so darn happy. As I continued to study your mannerisms, your striking resemblance to my father intrigued me and I simply could not physical draw my eyes away from you.
I watched you smile caringly at the technician who was doing his best to assist you. I couldn’t hear what you said, but I’m pretty sure you were paying him quick little compliments like my Dad would have done. You even looked at me and smiled. That was the exact reason I couldn’t stop staring at you. Because if my Dad were sitting there with some younger woman staring at him, he would never judge her, he would simply smile. He might even ask for a hug. I watched you finish up your business and walk away and everything in me wanted to run after you. I wanted to chase you to hold onto this feeling of my father in the flesh. But I knew that wasn’t a realistic option so I watched you walk away. As you walked away, you brought me back to that day.
My mom and I sat with my Dad in a hospital room as he was dying. He had spent way too many days in that hospital to begin with, but unfortunately it was our only choice. There were about five days that he spent “actively dying.” Five whole days where we didn’t know if each moment would be his last, if we said all we needed to say, if we did all we needed to do, if he had all he needed to have. Friday afternoon they told us he wouldn’t make it through the night. Just as he would have liked it, the hospital waiting room filled with family and friends. We took turns spending time with him in ICU and each said what we thought would be our final good-byes.
As great as they were, those nurses didn’t know my Dad. Mike Dalton would do it his way, and he would only go to the other side when he was good and ready and when he decided. For five grueling days I watched him fight the inevitable. Through lots of tears, questions, anger, desperation, and of course a million laughs, those five days were our what seemed to be a long, drawn out goodbye. Now I realize it was not long enough. I remember telling him so many times that it was okay for him to go. That I would be okay. That I want him to be at peace. That it was time. The truth is that I lied. I told him what I thought he needed to hear at that time. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean one word. And if I have one regret in my relationship with my father it is that I told him I would be okay without him. Looking back, I never wanted him to die thinking that my life as I knew it could exist without him. The truth is that it can’t. And it doesn’t.
As I watched him take his last breath, I immediately wished I could pull each one of those words back into my mouth. Because since that last breath, not one ounce of me has been okay. Just as we watched the fading pulse in his neck as he held on to the last possible second, a large part of who I am faded away as well. We were holding hands when my Dad died. I knew the exact second when his body gave up and he ended his battle with cancer because I felt him let go of my hand. That was the only time in my life I felt my Dad let go of me. Whether it was a hug, a kiss, a phone call, holding hands, or a goodbye, my Dad ALWAYS waited for me to let go first. That moment of feeling him let go with live in my memory forever. That moment is when I knew I had just not only lost my father, but my best friend (the fortunate yet unfortunate part of our relationship).
So to the man who smiled at me when I was so rudely starting at you in the store today, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for being kind in such a cruel world. I wasn’t staring at you because I was being rude, I was staring at you because you gave me a feeling I hadn’t felt in almost three months. You reminded me of my Dad in the flesh and gave me hope that he very well may still be here. While I may have been making you uncomfortable, you made me feel at ease. And you know what, that’s just what my Dad would have done for some strange girl staring at him.
The girl who misses her Daddy