If I could, I would do anything to have one last conversation with him. I would have told him just how loved and protected he made me feel.
Still, calm quietness was what surrounded us as we gathered around my father's hospital bed that day. But nothing was quiet inside my mind. I felt all my thoughts scrambling and swirling inside, and had no way of letting them out.
I didn't say a word until after the funeral when someone asked how I was doing. And I heard the words "I'm fine" slip out of me as if I was running on autopilot. For days, I felt like that, feeling the grief build up inside me, yet having no way of letting it out.
But all my emotions finally came pouring out when my mother asked me to put his stuff away because she couldn't do it. And as I went through everything he owned, I couldn't stop the tears as I sat on the floor, surrounded by all his stuff. I found a tattered old picture of me sitting on his shoulders when I was four, slightly crumbled in the pocket of his jeans. He even kept the drawing my younger brother made for him in kindergarten, lying in his old briefcase. And he still had the grey, satin bow-tie that he wore on the day he walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. He carried bits of our childhood with him as he watched us grow. But I only wish he knew how much of our childhood was as beautiful as it was because of him.
That's the thing about death. It leaves you with that crushing pain of knowing that there was still so much to say, so many things left unsaid.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there enough after I moved out."
"You meant the world to me."
If I could, I would do anything to have one last conversation with him. I would have told him just how loved and protected he made me feel. And no matter how old I am, I'll always be his little girl. I would thank him for being my hero, for always treating me like a princess, and for showing me just show respectful a man can be towards the women in his life.
My father never told me what I should do or how I should live. But he showed it to me by living his own life to the fullest. Of course, he never tried to teach me how a woman should be. But he did show me how a woman should be treated. And that's the most important thing I learned growing up, watching the way he was with my mom, his sister, his own mother. I understood my value because my father never forgot to remind me of it every day. I took that into all my future relationships and it led me to the wonderful husband I have today.
My father always made sure that we slept at night without a worry in the world, because he carried all our worries for us. As I rummaged through his stuff, I found his old shoes, the same ones that I would slip my tiny little feet into when I was around five. I still remember walking around the house in them even when they were ginormous for me. Now that he's left us, I still wonder if I'll ever be able to fill his shoes now that he's gone.
I need to be strong for my mom and my brother. I know my father wouldn't have wanted that. My only solace is knowing that he is probably somewhere still watching over me. And I want to live each day making him proud, living the way that he would have wanted me to live.
Thanks, dad. For always being there.
You'll always be my #1 man.