I am my late father’s daughter.
There is no doubt as to when laughing, my smile spreads from ear to ear, pushing my eyes to squint just like his.
The way the wind can blow from all four points reminds me of his pained, tortured, and passionate soul, seeming like his emotion could change with the direction from which the wind came.
My childhood memories of him are only dark and frightening. They are erratic and fast-moving. Maybe like Chicago, although I’ve never been.
Plates flying, tables turning, tires burning, fists shaking, hearts pounding, people crying, and even wild stories being told by strangers while seeing him unfold. They were blending and blurring the memories of my mother and her love, erasing and chasing my childhood into a secret space.
But once again, by grace and light, God showed me the way to see the other face of this man.
As an adult, I met his gentle and soft side while telling the most captivating stories to his grandchildren and talking with the animals. Disguised as Santa, he would call them and tell them stories of how he lived next to their pop by the North Pole.
He was a natural artist and he built his own home, complete with a wood stair railing that he carved into trees. He had pictures of us and our children plastered along his walls that showcased smiles that resembled his.
He lived on 48 acres in the New York Adirondacks. He moved there to get away from a world he didn’t fit in—a world he couldn’t tolerate and a world that wouldn’t tolerate him.
He carved out a picture-perfect property that he would mow and landscape himself, digging and clearing a small stream into a beautiful flowing river. He moved by hand boulders and rocks for months.
A canoe lie beached by a bridge he had built was waiting to take afloat. He was so excited to show us crayfish looking like little lobsters that rushed to the side while we waded by.
He loved it when we would come and visit him as adults and would take us hiking into the mountains. We would later make s’mores by a big bonfire and laugh while taking pictures of our chocolate marshmallow faces.
In the morning, we would be met with many hummingbirds. I could never understand then how they found his place in the woods, but I’m sure he led them there with the softness of his medicated bogeyman inside.
The medication gave me a father I could be near without trembling inside.
It brought relief to his pained, little boy self. His eyes would soften, his ridged body would unwind. The space around us would radiate with the peace that enveloped him.
He was too far to have learned any self-movement: breath work or inner work. He thought that saving the little boy’s pain was pointless.
But I am grateful to have these memories of a man whom I believed was painted the color of tar. For I am my father’s daughter. He fills half of me and God wanted me to be sure I knew that not all of his half was dark.
He has been gone now for almost 10 years, but his spirit is still here.
When I sit on my mat in the morning and light my candles, he greets me.
A hummingbird came to my window in late April while I was sitting as if to say, “Hey! We are back. Thanks for the sugar water.”
And then, they came again to the same window in early September to say “goodbye.”
My husband didn’t believe me until he saw them one more time until they left for the winter.
My father greets me with the wind blowing through the trees while whispering that he is sorry for all he couldn’t be.