I Am My Father’s Daughter
My parents divorced in 1972. I was ten years old and my brother, Mike, was thirteen. We lived in California at the time, having transferred there in 1969 from Kansas as a result of a job transfer for my dad. After my parents divorced, my mother moved my brother and I back to Kansas. She had a nervous breakdown prior to their separation and divorce and stated that she couldn’t make it living in California, but with the support of her parents in Kansas, she would be better off. I suspect that if the courts thought she would be better off, then perhaps they thought her children would be, too. In hindsight, I have concluded this was only partially true.
After our relocation back to Kansas, I missed my dad terribly, and despite the fact that I had my grandparents in my life, I was depressed for some time. We now lived several states away and I only saw my dad perhaps two or three times a year. At the same time I developed a love for writing and I wrote my dad letters, and this helped me feel better. My dad wrote back too–often. And I began to adjust. Over the next eight years, my dad flew back every few months or so. Some years I flew to see him over the Christmas school break and he would take me snow skiing. Those were great times just spending it with Dad.
When my father flew into town for a visit, our favorite thing to do was to find a restaurant, get a table, order a meal, and talk–for hours. Sometimes, if there were no tables available we’d end up sitting inside a bar. He’d order his favorite drink, a Coffee Keoke, and I’d have a Coke and we would have long honest talks. It was simple, but it was our way of catching up, relationally and emotionally. We laughed at the funny stories we shared and groaned over the not-so-great stuff of life common to divorced families. Looking back, those heart to heart talks are my most treasured memories with my dad. They made me feel connected to him and that he was genuinely interested in my life back in Kansas. He was never in a hurry and he made me feel important –that I mattered. This was crucial for me because my relationship with my mother grew contentious, especially in high school. I believe this was because of her life-long struggle with mental illness.
Every couple of years, Dad took my older brother, Mike and I on an overseas trip. Then when Mike was grown and on his own, it was just Dad and I. Dad worked for TWA (Trans World Airlines) and this was one blessing – the opportunity to travel inexpensively was such a privilege. I looked forward to these trips–to go somewhere with my dad and be exposed to other cultures. These trips helped to shape my world view, in spiritual ways as well as beyond my life in Kansas. The memories we made helped me get through the dry spells when months would pass before I’d see my dad again.
Today, 37 years later, we remain relationally close and connected. Some years later, after I was married with children of my own, I realized that I am my father’s daughter – and I believe all those times we spent sitting unrushed, talking and listening to each other had everything to do with that.