12 days with my dad: A love letter.

Now that we are back from our visit with my dad and his wife, I find myself missing the man who raised me and kissed me and hugged me and told me what a beautiful Roman nose I had been given to frighten off the barbarian tribes.

A good father is a daughter’s first love, her first hero, the primary lap in which she rests and retreats from a world which overwhelms and terrifies her. I watch Micah and how she relates to Patrick- how she seeks comfort from his arms, a solace with a different flavor from the one I can provide- and jealousy is quickly scuttled by awe and nostalgia for my own father and for the world of my childhood in which there were no demons, monsters, or robbers that his mere presence would not slay.

When Carla and I got lice and had to be shorn like sheep, “daddy” (that’s what we called him) allowed us to brush, style, and braid his comb-over. Some call it silliness; I saw it as the courage of a man happy to inhabit his own body and unconcerned with the gendered conventions of that cacaphony that is American culture. He was cool enough to sport a rainbow speedo on the beaches of Alabama. He loved knights and pirates and adventures and history and writing dedications which read like epic poems in every book he ever gave to me. I’ve yet to meet anyone who can draw a three-circled cat as quickly and effectively. He is the wise custodian of the dangerous “Iron Fingers which crush and destroy”. And he is the master of the Omeletta Regala. He is glitter and giggles on the memory map of my childhood.

I’ve gotten used to life without daddy. I’ve adapted, grown into maternity clothes, widened my reach, learned how to scare away monsters and demons for my own children, discovered my own ways to clean the castle moat. But being with him again leaves an open, raw space that I worked very hard to landscape out of my life as a mother and wife. The first man to reveal the beauty and magic of Alina in his love and doting, in the millions of family videos, in the flowers he still sends to me on my birthday- how can I thank this man for the freedom which he has given me to love myself and others in the world? I can only miss him and love him and delight when he nuzzles Milla as he used to nuzzle me and Carla.

Daddy, I hope your winds are strong, straight, and true today. And that the weather on the Chesapeake blows your way. I love you more than words can ever weigh.

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