I hesitate to write about this deeply, personal, difficult dynamic of a relationship. I believe, even at the young age I was, that I had a purpose with my relationship with him. I don’t know what that purpose was, but God knows. God put it on my heart to reach out and be brave in all my communication with my Papa.
He was estranged from our family. I knew that he had deeply hurt many people in our family.
Perhaps it was the hopeless optimism and innocence of a child, but I mostly saw the good. I had compassion for him. I prayed for change and repentance. Maybe he wanted a fresh start with a new generation of his kin? Maybe he wanted to put the past behind him?
He was always kind to me, so I’d like to think that he didn’t want to burden a child with adult issues or admit to his shortcomings in life. I wanted to get to know him on my own terms. We wrote letters back and forth. I would send him my yearly school pictures and he would praise me in my school work. We talked occasionally on the phone. He visited a few times and our visits were always pleasant. He made me laugh. He would always point out something good and encourage me in that.
I sought in his eyes the answers to all the heartache he caused, but he never let on. His sparkling eyes would mask the sadness and pain. I wanted to understand. I wanted to step into his soul and help heal him from the inside out. I know now, it was not my burden to bear. I was a child and could not even to begin to understand the complexities, but there I was, wanting to shoulder some of it, wanting to bridge the gap and knit together healing in our little family.
In my head, I couldn’t reconcile the hurts he caused to others and the hope filled relationship we had. I’d like to think that maybe I reminded him of his daughter, my mom, and this was his second chance – a rebirth of a relationship.
In his last days, I was able to say goodbye. Our visit was short and it ended bittersweet. I looked deep in his eyes for some hint of reconciliation with his life. I’d like to think he made peace. Without a word, he gave a faint smile as if to read my mind, squeezed my hand, and let go. I was forced out of his home a few moments later. He passed away shortly thereafter.
My 16th birthday was a few days after his funeral. Another birthday reminder that life is short; every year is a gift. When I would have been celebrating my life, I was reminiscing about his. Several years prior, my birthday celebration was clouded with sadness as well.
That’s a story for tomorrow.