(Note: there is actually nothing sexy about “daddy issues” and it’s an actual thing to target and manipulate emotionally vulnerable women to exploit their emotions and feelings for sex. Looking at you Chuck Lorre and every other writer/director/comedian who thinks women’s emotions are frivolous and meaningless and that it’s okay to use them as a punchline in a joke only directed to men- women, right?)
7 years ago tonight, I had just gotten home from the youth mass at church. It was the week after Easter and I had cantored that night and I was feeling really good about it. I made General Tso’s chicken with white rice for my mom and I from a frozen meal, but I think we were the only ones who ate it because my dad was too sick to eat and kept drifting off and I don’t know where my little brother was.
I was supposed to do a group presentation the next day during my third hour American Lit class. I don’t remember what it was because I didn’t read the book and Mr. Robinson was an easy grader anyway. I was facebook chatting with some guy I had a crush on (feeling not mutual) and talking to one of my group members about whatever our presentation was about.
Something was on tv, I don’t remember what but my mom and I were watching it from the kitchen while my dad slept on the couch because he was too weak and his body hurt too much for him to make it up the stairs to his bed. Actually, I don’t think my dad ever made it upstairs since he got home from the last round of chemo- his spent the last month of his life downstairs in our home. My mom and I were giggling together because my dad was snoring so loudly. He was always a snorer but this time it like, echoed around the family room. My mom put our handmade yellow afghan on him and I went to bed, dreading my project the next day, while listening to my dad’s insane snoring from my room.
Later that night, I woke up to get a glass of water and I could hear snoring, but it was softer and I felt relieved because I felt like it meant he could breathe better. I walked down the stairs and saw him from our balcony and after I got my water, I remember looking back down on him before going back to bed. And that was the last time I saw my dad alive.
I say this same thing on my blog on this day every year and every year it gets a little more detailed. I think it’s because the longer it’s been, the more comfortable I am digging into that memory and archiving it outside of my brain. More comfortable- but also infinitely more painful. But I think there’s something to be said for moving deeper into my sad thoughts and memories and entertaining those thoughts when I would rather be stifling them with literally anything else.
My life is forever fucked up because every time anything big happens in my life, I think of the alternate timeline in which my dad made a miraculous recovery and he’d still be alive and so many things in my life would be different. So if you care to join me on my self-pity cruise, I thought it would be a good idea to really dig into this idea and write out how I think my life would go if my dad was here. It’s going to be pretty idyllic, best-case-scenario kind of stuff, but realistic enough because I don’t believe in glorifying the dead just because they’re dead.
If my dad lived, I probably would have failed junior year. That semester, I was taking Algebra II and Chemistry and I had (and still have) no idea what the fuck was going on in those classes. I want to blame my poor grades on being distracted by my dad’s illness, but honestly was way more self centered than that and really just very bad at math. Maybe some of my teachers would have been a little more forgiving knowing my situation, but I was on track to fail them. I had received D’s before, but had never completely failed a class. I would have had to make the classes up senior year and take them instead of all the fun classes I was in like cooking, film study, and jewelry. My GPA wasn’t star-quality in the first place, so those hits would impact my college apps and probably steer me away from UNC and more to Metro or ACC. But in an ideal world, my teachers passed me with the bare minimum out of pity.
I spent the summer before senior year at home. In reality, we were having our house redone so we could sell it and we didn’t have carpet for most of the summer (because that’s what happens when you have an unreliable contractor and a house full of depressed people with ADD) and we all lived in danger of splinters and staples in the floor. If my dad had lived, none of that would be an issue because we didn’t super care that much about our home’s interior. As my dad recovered, he and I would be at home while my little brother would be sleeping or hanging out with his weird friends. Maureen would stay in Ft Collins and Joe would probably have stayed in the Navy longer despite hating it. I imagine my dad and I hanging out and watching daytime TV. It was the summer of 2010 and the final season of the Tyra show. I would have driven my dad around wherever he needed to go since it wouldn’t be safe for him to drive and we’d stop places for ice cream or lunch while he started getting his appetite back.
Senior year would start and I’d be gone during school but I’d come back home sometimes on my off-hours to have lunch or hang out before going back. I did that a lot the previous semester because I wanted to check in but also because I had no one to eat lunch with after I quit band. I would have probably still gotten a part time job and quit a month later once I had gotten into the school play. My dad would have come to my audition, even if it wasn’t customary, because he wanted to see me perform and because he had nothing else to do. When I auditioned for the musical the semester before, he wanted to come to see but he couldn’t make it. He was there when I came home crying though. After I got in the play, he’d come to opening night and sit through the whole play until I came on in the final act to say my 2 lines. Even then, he’d probably still cry. During the next play when I was a lead, I don’t think he’d make it too far without crying even though I was a shitty actress in a costume that I literally stapled together. I probably wouldn’t have made the friend group that I did. I’d be familiar with all of them, but we would have never gotten together as a group. I’d have finished high school the same way I did the rest of high school- getting by without being too committed to anything.
If I had still gotten into UNC, both my mom and my dad would help me move into my dorm. We’d have gotten lunch and he’d be there for my mom so she wouldn’t have felt so alone without me at home. Whenever I’d go home, I’d talk to him like your average pretentious first semester freshman. He would have teased me for joining a sorority while worrying about how it would change me and the trouble I could get in. He’d warn me against boys and alcohol but truly he had nothing to worry about because I was the virginiest virgin in the world and parties terrified me. My dad was very liberal when he was younger – my mom called him a “recovering democrat” in the same tone as she would a recovering alcoholic. I wonder if my change from child-republican to loud, psuedo marxist, perpetually angry feminist would have any impact on our relationship. I think either he’d start to revert back into a liberal now that he had someone to back his old beliefs up, or if he’d roll his eyes at me but still entertain the arguments for the sake of argumentation. He would have come to my choir concerts, he would cry to hear my solo freshman year.
I’d get my dad into Game of Thrones and he’d get an HBO subscription just to watch it on Sundays. He’d read the book series and we would talk about our theories and the characters.
My sophomore year he and my mom would move me into my house and my dad would install security measurements on it just in case. I’d still adopt a dog, but I would have waited until I was completely moved in so we wouldn’t have an extra dog while I lived at home. He’d be proud to hear about my accomplishments in ASA and how I was finally achieving academically now that I was working in a field I enjoyed. I would have stayed in music performance longer because I was so addicted to the pride he felt in me when I was singing. I would have switched majors eventually though- maybe to English or History, or I would have stuck with Geography as a major instead of a minor.
I think I’d hit peak-pride moment when I would call him to tell him about my position on the Student Senate during my junior year and he’d want to keep track of everything I was doing as a leader on campus. He’d hate my roommate like my mom did. After my 21st birthday, we’d go out to get a beer or something when I came down the weekend after. I probably would be a little more tactful when talking about my lifestyle choices at home (sorry mom.)
I think that when my sister came out to the family, my dad would consider it for a moment before assuring her of his love and support, although it’s something he’d struggle with for a long time before truly accepting it.
I really don’t know how my older brother would do in this alternate universe. I’d like to think that my dad’s pride and support of him would drive him to really pursue his goals and make something of himself. I think my younger brother would have still given college a shot, but ended up on another path from that.
As senior year progressed, I think he’d get a little more worried about me and my lack of direction. He’d totally support my semester abroad, but he’d also want to know about my non-existent postgrad plans. After Germany, I would have still moved home and gotten a part time job to fill the void until I officially got my degree. Graduation would have been a bigger deal to him. Even with my degree, I’d probably follow the same path that’s gotten me here now- temp jobs plus part time work. I’d have moved out, and maybe my parents would move to a smaller home but never too far away. Maybe he’d want me to stay home and work off some of my loans before signing a lease and taking on more responsibility, but also maybe not.
I never got to know my dad as an adult the same way I’ve gotten to know my mom. Everything I hear about my adult father comes secondhand. I only ever knew him as a dad. I didn’t get to see his worries or concerns, I didn’t get to see him as a boss at his work. I can’t talk to him about my adult problems.
If my dad were alive today, I’d definitely want to know what he thought of the 2016 election. I’d want to hear his jokes about Uber and United Airlines. I’d talk to him about the Paul Simon biography I’m listening to now to see if I could tell him something he didn’t already know. I’d want him to tell me whether to go to Portland, Indiana, or Buffalo and I’d want to see how he talks about my sister getting her PhD, how my brothers are making it on their own. I’d want to see how his relationship with my mom developed when they became emptynesters and got to live alone together for the first time in their marriage.
I feel so robbed of all of these moments. I feel like I’m forcing myself to construct fake memories to that I can pretend I know what it feels like to experience them.
Thanks for reading, I know this was a long one.