I miss my dad.
I mean, I guess we always miss our parents if they aren’t right in front of us. I certainly missed my dad as a young adult, and I know my kids miss me when I’m away from them now. But I think in times of stress, we miss our parents even more.
Right now, I really miss my dad.
We still talk almost every day. Sometimes it’s just for a minute or two and sometimes we have long sprawling conversations that last for over an hour. Sometimes we talk about the food we are cooking and sometimes we talk about world events. Sometimes the kids steal my phone and update Grandpa Tom on their lives. Sometimes we talk about nothing.
People who don’t know my dad very well may think that he is a complicated man. He reads books on quantum theory and then he takes longs walks where he contemplates the universe. He raised two girls and then got them through early adulthood on his own, talking to us about dating and wedding dresses and all sorts of things he wasn’t prepared to discuss. He grieved the loss of his spouse in middle age, and then helped his daughter to do the same.
He’s not a one-dimensional kind of guy.
But really, my dad is not complicated at all. He has a north star that guides him in a way that I’ve always admired. He chose to practice medicine in a small, working class town, rather than in an established group with his father in the big city, because he wanted to help people who really needed it. He was a Texan man who raised two girls, but he was never overbearing and he let us make our own choices. (Famously, when Shawn called to ask to marry me, my dad said, “well, if she says yes, it’s okay with me!”) He is kind to everyone and within six months of living in DC, he knew the name of every postal worker and crossing guard and grocery checker in my neighborhood (not to mention every child that went to school with my kids.)
And when I ask him his opinion, he will always tell me the truth.
This doesn’t mean he always has the answers. Often when I ask him a question, he will say, “wait and see.”
I always hated that answer as a child. I wanted to know the future and I wanted to know that things were going to be okay when I was in pain. “Wait and see,” my dad would say, with a slight tilt of his head.
It was frustrating. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered what a useful statement this is. “When am I going to feel better?” I said to him in April when I was exhausted from the stress of teaching and parenting combined with terrible allergies.
“Wait and see,” he replied.
It’s not like my dad doesn’t care about what’s happening in my life or in the world. He cares a lot. He wants me to be happy and he wants justice in the world. He loves to say that life is unfair, but he also wants to make things better. He wants to change the things that are wrong.
But he also knows that we can’t predict the future. We do our best, listen to each other and try to make our homes and this world a better place. But ultimately, we have to wait and see.
I miss my dad for a million reasons, but mostly I miss him for his steadiness. I miss the way he loves our family with no reservations, and I miss the way he thinks about the problems we face in this country. I miss the way he calms me down and reminds me of my own true north. I miss his sense of justice, one that is somehow both urgent and patient.
I always miss him, but right now, I really miss him. I called him the other day and told him I couldn’t wait until we could all be together again. “I know it can’t be this summer,” I said, “but I just want to see you again in 2020.”
“We have to wait and see,” he said.
I sighed. I knew he was right. Before I could say anything else, he said, “I’m making jam tomorrow, so I may not be able to talk. But you hang in there. I love you.”
“I love you too, Dad,” I said, “and I miss you a whole lot.”
Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.