Today was my daughter’s fourth birthday, and you’re not here dad. You’re not here to be her Pipi, or to see her smile and laugh and cry and whine and drive me mad. You’re not here to hear the silly story about the funny thing she said. All the funny things she says. You were the one I saved all of my funny stories for. As they were happening I would save them in my mind, line by line, marked, To Tell Dad Later. And you always listened. I didn’t realize until tonight when I was sitting here crying and missing you what an amazing listener you were. Always. Driving me around town in your red Ace van, always listening, always wanting to hear what I had to say. I could call you any time and say, “I just want someone to talk to.” and need no other reason. I would just ramble on about the crap going on in my life and you would always listen, and you would always laugh at all the right parts. I miss you so much Dad. I miss you being grumpy and miserable. And I miss being scared of pissing you off. And I miss telling you my stories. I just miss you.
I miss you because my four year old doesn’t know how to miss you. Doesn’t know what she’s missing. Though she mentioned you today, like she still does so frequently. “I’m sad Pipi died. Does it make you sad mom?” I swear sometimes she brings it up just to see if I’ll cry. Like she enjoys picking at the scab. And Dad, you would be the first one to laugh and shake your head at the bizarre things she says. “I love you, love you, love you mom. I love you so much I hope you don’t die. I love you so much I want you to stay even when it’s the last day.”
It’s been almost three months since you died. And I don’t know why I started thinking about you tonight. Maybe because it was your grand-daughter’s birthday. Maybe because today is also my Pipi’s birthday. Maybe because I just think of you often, like every day. But tonight for some reason I just can’t stop crying.
I think of you in the middle of the night, when my youngest wakes up crying because her knees hurt and as I sit there in the dark rubbing her legs and trying to sooth her I remember how patient you always were when I was a little kid and I woke up scared or crying in the middle of the night. In the day time you were so stern and gruff. But in the middle of the night, when I was sick or hurting you were amazingly patient, and I remember how you would sit with me, rubbing my legs until I could fall back asleep. And I remember all the times I crawled into bed with you and mom, or slept on the floor in your room.
It’s funny, losing you, I now realize how much it must have hurt when Papa died, when Grandma died. It get it now. And I wish I could sit and talk to you about it. But mostly I wish I could laugh. I wish I could just listen to you talk and laugh at your silly stories. The ones I used to laugh so hard at, that I would ask you to tell them again and again. Like when we were kids and we would request the story about the time there was a big black bird in the basement, or the time you and my brother went after that squirrel, in hockey helmets.
And tonight I just randomly remembered that time you drove a classmate home and after we dropped him off you said to me in your sternest scariest voice, “You’re not dating that boy are you?” And I said, “No Dad, I’m dating that other guy you dropped off earlier, I have been for months now, you know this.” And you said, “Right. Of course you’re not dating him because He is GAY. That boy is gay. You are NOT to go out with him.” Thinking about that conversation still makes me laugh. Like forbidding me to date someone because he is gay is so fricking ludicrous. Only you Dad. Or how about the time I told you that Hubby and I were engaged and you replied with “Engaged in what?”
You know, when I talked to my husband, after you died, the only thing he said to me was “I don’t get it. I don’t get why you’re upset. I mean, it’s just your Dad. When I met you you hated your Dad.” But he’s wrong. I didn’t hate you Dad. I was terrified of you. I could barely speak to you. I thought you hated me. I thought you were out to get me. I was 18. And I was smoking cigarettes and drinking beer and dating and having sex, and all of the things you feared. And you were an angry man, with a short temper, who used to scare the living daylights out of me.
And then I moved out and you picked me up after work and took me to get my groceries, you never said no. Whenever I called you were there. And you drove me around and you listened. I felt like I had to have a good story to tell you. Like talking to you, telling you some important or funny story was my payment for you driving me. You drove, and as passenger it was my job to entertain. To man the radio station dial, and to keep the conversation flowing.
And when I was pregnant with girl number two you drove the two year old and I to my appointments at the midwife’s. Four years ago. In your red Ace van. I can’t believe that was only four years ago. It feels so very far away now. When she was born you held her, here at my house, in the front room. You came to visit. You joked about how much she looked like you, calling her “Mini Me” as you held one of your Pipi hats out over her head. Today she turned four Dad, and you weren’t here.
I remember your last birthday, when you turned 59. I remember how happy you were, and how you said that you didn’t need to make a wish on your birthday candles because you had everything you ever wanted, right here. I just wish you’d had it for a little while longer. I just miss you Dad.