Cecelia turning six means a milestone looms large in my near future. My father moved out of our house when I was that age. I can’t remember exactly when it happened without asking my mother, but I seem to recall it happening during the late spring. This would have made me about six years and two or three months old — about the same age Cecelia is right now.
I’ll wait until she turns seven to declare it, but soon Cecelia will know life with a father longer than I had. To me, that’s a big deal.
My father died about two and a half years ago, and I’ve attempted more than once to write about how that impacted me. I’d start, but then stop because the words that came out only sounded too self-piteous, and I do not seek any sympathy for how I feel. I’ve only wanted to describe my life without a father, and how I’ve made it my primary purpose in life to give someone in this family the experience of growing up with one.
I hardly knew my father. He didn’t make it easy to know him. He spoke little, and when he did, he had little to say. I wouldn’t describe him as cruel or abusive. My mother rarely spoke ill of him, and if she expressed any opinion of the man, she’d talk about his inability to save money and his infuriating propensity to make decisions without her. He died leaving behind some tremendous debts for his wife to settle.
But to me, I came to regard my father as a distant character. As a small child, I didn’t know better. He was my dad, and to a little boy, dad can do no wrong — even when he walks out of your life, and yes, even when he tells you he doesn’t want anymore weekend visits despite living less than 30 miles away.
I didn’t see my father between the ages of eight and fourteen — only the most tumultuous periods of a young person’s life. Coming out on the other end of that, I came to see my father as just some guy. He displayed no particular interest in my life at that time. He only wanted to see his new granddaughter. My sisters and I, in a sense, just went along for the ride, although by the time I turned 23, I bailed on this exercise in futility before my sisters did.
If I had to guess, I’d say that my father suffered from depression. Having some experience with that myself, I saw the symptoms. I have to think my father, given his string of business failures, his series of jobs with many different companies, and his apparent inability to finish projects he started shows me he had a difficulties accepting his lot in life. I get that. I’ve walked in those shoes.
But would I ever use that as an excuse to leave behind the children I brought into this world? I feel a shiver run down my spine when I think of a life without her. I don’t even want to consider that as a possibility. I damn near turned into a blubbering fool while watching the scene in “Tangled” where the King realized he’d have to celebrate his missing daughter’s 18th birthday.
No, I’ll never know what demon possessed my father, compelling him to leave us behind. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t wonder how different I might have turned out had he chosen to stick around, and show even a modicum of interest in me. My mother did the best she could, but no woman can truly replace a good father figure.
Like it or not, Cecelia, I’m here for the long haul. I promise, however, to do everything in my power to keep you safe, warm, and happy. It’s the least any father can do.