He was the source of nurture at my house. He tucked me in and rubbed my back. “Tickly light please, Daddy.” He said prayers with me even though I am not sure if he knew whether or not he believed in them. When I had bad dreams, I found myself on his side of the bed, snuggling up to him to calm down.
He was also the one who came to check on us after the very loud fight when they threatened to leave one another but didn’t. “Are you guys okay? Were you scared? No one is leaving.”
And he was the one who left me a note on the night he had to leave when I was in high school. “I didn’t want things to end up like this. I will always be here for you.”
My last two years of high school I lived out of my car, moving every two weeks from one parent to the other. I never quite knew where all my clothes were. I suppose it should not have been a surprise when I drove out of town for a wedding not realizing I left my dress behind. He drove an hour and a half and dropped it off to me, hugged me, told me to have fun and then got back in the car and drove and hour and a half home. No shame, no guilt. Just love.
Then there were a few years of crazy between us. More people came into the mix and things got complex. I got damaged in the process. We all did.
I know it hurt him when I asked for space last year. I wasn’t trying to punish him or be childish and angry. I was falling apart and I needed my therapist and some time. He worried. The whole time. And it took a lot longer than I thought it would.
But now that time is over, and I hear something new in his voice when I call. Gratitude. He seems so much more aware of being glad to hear from me. He takes time to ask questions and really listen.
His love continues to keep me sane. I have always had this gut sense for what a loving parent feels like, but my mind likes to tell me that I am a terrible child, undeserving of such love, foolish and unreasonable for desiring it.
So I need the reminder that he is and the unearned love that he gives.