I've often said grief is like waves on an ocean. As you move farther from the event, as merciful time passes, the waves get farther apart. However, when a wave hits, it hits just as strong, just as powerfully as it did in the beginning when waves were only moments apart. The grief never lessens, only the frequency.
I’ve been married twice. I've had two weddings. Before both, I was expecting to miss my father. Every little girl dreams of being walked down the aisle. I had two chances at this, my father wasn't at either. Surprisingly, I never thought of him on either day. I know, it sounds harsh. And strange, especially when you know me and how much my father means to me. But I didn't. I thought of flowers and vows and chicken satay. I didn't think of my father once.
When I graduated college, my mom sat in the bleachers. My father wasn't there. Although my father died when I was in high school, I didn’t actually begin the process of grieving until I was a sophomore in college. Doing so sent me into an emotional tailspin. My chronic back pain - which I live with now pretty well - started in college too. There were some iffy moments in those years when I spent more hours on the phone with my mom begging to come home than I did in class. I had a nasty knee injury in college which was nothing compared to a nasty break-up. I still don't know how I made it through some of those times. After I turned my tassel I turned to the stands and found my mom. Every parent was cheering, clapping, hooting and hollering. Thunderous applause. My mom stood alone. I found her easily. She tucked her program under her left arm and held it tight to her body. With her right hand she made a fist and pumped it just slightly in the air. I returned the salute. Mom power. I wasn't even looking for my dad.
When I landed my first big job I drove to the office where my then husband worked. I called him out of a meeting. I danced a jig in the front office and we made plans for dinner that night. I told my sister the good news later on the phone. I let my mom know and called a bunch of friends who knew I was interviewing. They all congratulated me. I congratulated myself. It was a great feeling. I never thought of my dad. Not once.
Early this morning I was in a cab on the way to the airport. I had to catch the first flight out of Okalahoma City so I could speak at an event before noon in Kansas City. The first flight left at 6:30 – which meant I had a wake up call very early. Very, very, VERY early. I shared my cab with another unlucky soul who also had an early flight out. We wrestled our baggage into the van. We climbed in. We didn’t say much at first. But eventually we started chatting. Where are you going? I asked and he answered. Where are you going? He asked and I answered. What do you do? Oh yeah? And what do you do? You know, the usual stuff. We cracked a couple of jokes. We laughed politely. It was a nice little jaunt.
When we arrived at the airport, this gentleman with whom I shared the cab said to me, Go on, I’ve got it. Meaning he would pay for the cab. That was nice, but unnecessary. I told him so. And he said, very plainly,
I’ve got it. You go on now.
He smiled at me. And nodded toward the airport.
In that moment, in that simple, insignificant, nearly meaningless moment, I felt profoundly fatherless.