March 31 came and went without incident. I made an off-hand comment to the hubby about it, but other than that, I didn’t think much of it. And then Sunday came. A woman was visiting our church from the States. Although she turned out to be the pastor’s mother in law, he called her mama.
It made me think of my dad.
March 31st would have been his 50th birthday. Although it’s been almost 12 years, every now and then something happens that makes me think of him, and miss him, as if so much time hadn’t already passed. I wonder if he would be proud of me, finishing college, going on to get a master’s degree, working, getting married. I like to think he would be. I imagine him calling Woodstock just to talk. I think they could relate, at least on some level. Before my father started teaching again, he worked at the Mississippi Army Ammo plant – maybe making the type of ammo Wood works with on a daily basis. I imagine him coming to visit me here. As a foreign language teacher, he spoke German, French and Spanish. He would have loved to have the chance to speak those languages in their native countries. I could call him, ask to speak to him and German, and practice my language skills. Maybe I would know French by now. I took it in college but didn’t want to continue because it didn’t fit into my plan. Even though my teacher said I had a “gift.” I wonder if he would have been disappointed that I quit.
Would my life be different? What about my relationship with men? Would I have gone to college where I did? Become so independent so fast? I don’t know. I know God does things for a reason, and I want to believe that maybe I took something positive away from his death. But I still wonder sometimes.
I imagine a different life where my dad teaches me how to drive a stick instead of my pastor. And we go shopping for my first car together, because unlike my mom, he knows something about cars. He helps me move into my dorm room, and subsequently 4 or 5 apartments after I graduate. Instead of my brothers, he walks me down the aisle at my wedding. Looks at my soon-to-be husband in that way that is meant to strike fear in his heart; that look that lasts less than 5 seconds but says, “You better not hurt my little girl or I’m coming after you.” A life where he gets to come and visit me for his birthday, and we go shopping downtown, and make my doctor’s appointments for me, easily asking for and saying all the things that I have to try to convey using gestures and slowly speaking a mix of English words and stuff I’ve made up (“I see float-y things in front of my eyes. Floooaaat-yyy thinnnngggssss.”) We would go to France and Spain, too, where he could tell us if the natives are talking about us behind our backs or not.
But it’s not a different life, it’s this one, and he’s not here. And he can’t help me with French or German. And he didn’t give me away at my wedding or do any of those other things. And that makes me sad. But I still did those things, I still learned to drive a stick, I still got married, I’m still struggling to learn how to conjugate verbs in German. And even though he’s not here to help me with those things, I know I’m not alone.
Happy birthday, dad.