You were small once. (Remember?)
I can recall the look in your eyes. I can remember the glare on your face while twirling a little sparkler and the amazement was wild. You were little. You were young as ever and the world was so new. Everything was so big and amazing, like the colored flashes in the nighttime sky on the 4th of July.
There is a picture I have of you somewhere. You were in a little blue princess dress. It was Halloween and your little plastic orange pumpkin was filled with candy. I can see this in my mind. I can see your smile. I can see the darkness behind you and the street we used to live on.
I know there were more times like this. At least, I hope there were. But age is funny and memories can easily be lost to unimportant things like regrets or an argument or an unpleasant memory. Unfortunately, life can be filled with these things too.
There were times like that I will never forget. There were times like the weekends of the block parties. I remember this. I remember your bedroom that I had painted. I remember the stuffed animals and the little makeup table and the area rug in your room. I remember your art supplies, the little easel in the corner and the papers you used to draw on.
I remember when we used to tell stories about Animal, the Muppet.
I’d tell you how he used to be my friend. “We used to be really close,” I’d say.
I used to tell you how he was different from the way he was on television.
I’d say “He was truly enlightened,” and how after the band split up, Animal moved down to Hawaii. “He went there to find himself.” is what I’d tell you.
We joked about Kermit and Mrs. Piggy. Everything changed once Mrs. Piggy came around.
“Kermit was a different guy,” I’d tell you.
“He and Animal had a falling out,” is what I’d say.
“They used to have an apartment downtown in the city together but once Piggy came, Kermit wasn’t the same anymore.”
You would laugh about this. Maybe the story line wasn’t the greatest but hey, you would laugh and so to me, your laughter was worth it all.
I remember the movies we’d watch. I remember the cartoons. I remember Gumby and the story about Too and Loo. I remember the time Oscar the Bird ate your little meatball. And I remember Buster and Roxxy and Brody the Dog. And Tiki the Cat and the time we said, “The bear can’t get me up here,” when we were on the playground.
I remember the fish tank and how you liked to feed the fish. As a matter of fact, I remember asking you a question.
I asked, “Hey, Punky. Do you think fish ever get thirsty?”
You looked at me and laughed. You said, “Silly Daddy!”
I remember reading you bedtime stories. My favorite was Silly Sally and how Silly Sally went to town, walking backwards, upside down.
I remember the pizza. This was a big thing with us. And then there were the times when we’d stop and get hamburgers at McDonald’s, and of course, they would always mess up on your burgers, extra pickles, no ketchup. For some reason, this was a difficult thing for the people behind the counter.
I know that I worked a lot. And I wish this wasn’t so.
Unfortunately, work is something I have to do.
There’s pictures in my mind though. These are pictures of me coming home from work and you were over, waiting and ready to have dinner with me.
I remember this.
I remember this because this is all I have. I remember this because I don’t want to remember anything else; and the reason why is because anything else is something that I wish never happened.
Plus, I don’t have much else. Age, time and faults took away from us the one thing we should have, which is a relationship like how a father and daughter should be.
I say what I say humbly and truthfully. And what I mean by this is I acknowledge my mistakes, wholeheartedly and apologetically.
I suppose if I could go back in time, there are a few things I would have done.
First, I would have reminded myself that happiness is more about being happy and enjoying the moment. It’s not about being right or validated in arguments that had nothing to do with the time between us.
I spent so much time, worrying about being respected and validated that I overlooked the one most precious truth. Kids are only young once. If you blink, you miss it.
And I did.
I suppose I would remind myself how time is so sweet and so short and how if we are not careful, the sweetness of time can spoil and become sour.
If I could go back, I would tell me to value every moment because work and life itself is already draining. This means the time we have is short. So appreciate it. Love it. Live it. And learn from it.
Let go of what you don’t need. Life is heavy enough without all the unwanted things to bring you down.
I don’t know where you are now. Well, this is not true.
I know where.
What I mean is, I don’t know what you do or how you fill your time. I don’t know if you still draw or dream or laugh at silly things, like, say, do you still laugh at the silly movies we used to watch?
There is a great big world out there. And you, well, you’re not a little girl anymore.
It’s been a long time since the days when I was able to pick you up and carry you.
I wish I’d done that more.
I know who I am. I know who you are. And sometimes, things go in directions that are not what we intended.
Or better yet, let me speak for myself.
This is not what I intended, but yet, here we are
I can’t explain why divorce happens. I can’t explain why people who are supposed to love each other or get along will argue and not get along. Or wait, no. Let me clarify this.
Intellectually, I understand. And so will you. Emotionally, though; well, that’s not so easy now.
I have written countless letters to you. I don’t send them because it was suggested to me to leave you alone. I was told this is what you wanted. So, I did as I was told. Besides, if I kept trying, it would be about me and not about you.
But this right here; this one’s about you.
I hope you grow and never stop. I hope you live.
I hope you find the happiest life possible.
I hope that you find love and that love finds you.
I hope that you find your dreams.
Find your passion.
Find your purpose in life.
I hope that you find the understanding that parents are really just kids that grew up.
We all have faults and flaws. We all make mistakes.
We all say things that we wish we could take back.
This is hard to say because although we wish we could take things back, sometimes, some things never go back.
And I get that.
I accept this because I have to.
I suppose this is why I created my Daddy Diaries.
I’ve kept a collection of thoughts and poems. I’ve kept a collection of ideas and although you were not here with me, I envisioned you were.
I have this vision sometimes.
I am sitting in a booth at a diner. And you are running late. I am waiting and looking at the menu. There’s a little jukebox at the table (remember), which of course, I am ready to let you pick the songs to play.
My back is to the wall so that I can face the doors and see when you come in. When you do, I wave, as if to say “I’m over here!” and then you come over and sit down.
You pick up a menu, happily as ever. And we’d order and we’d talk and you could tell me about your day and I could listen and I could laugh. Sometimes I weep about this. Sometimes I smile because sad or not, at least I get to see you, even if only in my mind.
The world is an imperfect place and I am an imperfect man.
People will not always say and do the right things.
One day, there will come a time when you’ll see that we all have our hang-ups and bouts with ourselves, which, sadly, this bleeds out on the people around us.
Parents aren’t perfect. They’re just people too.
The same things you might struggle with are the same things parents might struggle with.
Everyone has insecurities.
I suppose the idea is to not let insecurities get in the way of living life.
And sadly, this happens to a lot of people.
I know because I am one of them.
I am me.
You are you.
But no matter where you go, I will always have this picture of you inside my heart.
I can see you now, twirling around in a little blue dress.
(I believe it was a Cinderella dress.)
Your little plastic pumpkin filled with candy.
Your smile is bright as ever.
You’re happy . . .
That’s all a father could ask for.
Be well, Punky
I miss you