remembering my dad

“You know that place between sleep and awake? The place you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you and that’s where I’ll be waiting…” – tinkerbell

If memory serves, the story goes that the Lost Boys became lost because they fell out of their prams, lost by their parents. If they weren’t claimed within seven days they would live in Never Neverland forever. The story also says that there is no such thing as a Lost Girl for they are far too clever to ever fall out of their prams. I agree completely that we are indeed too clever.  However, we girls can also be lost in our own version of Never Neverland. I am such a girl.

My dad passed away when I was seven. I always miss him a little more on Father’s Day. Confusion, chaos, and darkness seeped into my life the night my Dad died, and it remained for many years. Standing at his coffin. Being told I had to say good-bye. At that moment, I became a member of that special version of Never Neverland.  The one for girls who lost their Dad.

In the weeks, months and years after he died, I thought my dad was lost, not gone. I was convinced he had not left me. Every time we went somewhere, I would look quietly but diligently for him. My plan was simple. I would find him, tell him I loved him, and it was time to come home. He didn’t need to be lost anymore. Every time we came home and I hadn’t found him, I became a little more lost. I think there’s a part of me that still keeps an eye out for him wherever I go, just in case.

They say a father’s love is a girl's most important love. One thing I know for certain about my dad is his love for me. He was my first knight. I am his sunshine. I treasure every moment I had with him. As I reach my life’s milestones without him, it’s bittersweet. I wonder what it would be like for my dad to be here. Would he be happy and proud for my life’s choices and accomplishments? In those moments when I stumble or fall, what advice would he share, and how might he help me up and set me on a better path?   When my heart breaks or I feel lost and alone, what it would be like to have my dad hug and hold me and tell me everything will be okay? All of those lost moments and opportunities to be reminded of the special bond between a father and his daughter.

I have my dad’s smile and use it as much as possible. I share his love for music and you can tell a lot about my moods by the artist, structure, and complexity of what I express through music. I expect he was the same the way. My dad smoked a pipe occasionally. He used to let me pack it with the cherry tobacco he favored. I loved how that smell filled the house. It instantly made me feel safe and secure. I still keep some of that tobacco around, and all I need do is breathe it in and I am immediately surrounded by my father’s love and security.

I took my first road trip with my dad the summer I was seven. He packed my brother and me into the VW Beetle and took us to New Jersey to visit my Grandma and Grandpa. He was six foot four and I am still not sure how he wedged himself into that car.  I was so excited because I got to bring my pillow and blanket, and he put the back seat down so I could stretch out and it was like a moving slumber party. During that trip, my grandma taught me how to make my dad’s favorite peach pie.

As a child, I had my share of bad dreams and called for my dad to rescue me. He would come to my room and I would tell him all about my dream. He would bring me a glass of water, and check just in case anything from my dream was still around. Once he made sure it was all clear, he would tell me that he loved me and it was safe to go to sleep. I was always able to go back to sleep after my daddy chased away my bad dreams.

Soon after he was gone, I realized I was able to find my dad in my dreams. In the good ones we play and walk together. We love the beach. When the bad dreams come, he's there, too. He chases away the bad and makes sure it's safe for me. In those lost, fearful moments when I awake from one of those dreams, I wait until I hear him tell me from wherever he is that it's all clear.  I feel him stay with me and coax me back to sleep.  To this day, my dad still chases away any bad dream.

A few years ago I had a surgery. Before I went “under”, my doctor asked me if I had my dream ready and I nodded. In this dream, my dad and I walked together along a beach. We talked about my life, how proud he was, how much he loved me, how he was always here. We sat by the water for a long time.  We talked about my hopes for my life, my dreams for the future. Eventually we resumed our walk. We came to a clearing, and he asked me if I was ready for all my hopes and dreams to come true. I said yes.

And with that, I was pulled from my sleep. The recovery nurse and my doctor were happy I was finally waking up. The surgery had taken longer than expected and was more complicated, but everything was going to be just fine. I had had a hard time waking up and they had been worried.  My doctor told me it must have been a pretty great dream because I seemed quite content to keep sleeping. She was right.

I think Tinkerbell meant this quote for her unrequited love. But, I think it applies to anyone we love. We can find them in that place between dreaming and waking. Whether they are here with us or cast off to another world, they are always there. All I need do is look for my daddy, and there he is. He warms me with his smile, protects me from any evil, and tells me he loves me. His Sunshine.

Every Father’s Day I bake a peach pie. I play some jazz music. I burn a little cherry tobacco. I remember the moments from my childhood when I knew with absolute certainty that I was loved. And every one includes my daddy. That night, in that special place between asleep and awake, when I can still remember dreaming, I’ll find my daddy, tell him I love him, hear him tell me the same, and we’ll take a little walk together. We may sit a spell on the water and talk about my hopes and dreams for the future.  In the moment when I am still dreaming and almost awake, I will be awash with love.