I climbed into his lap and he hugged me tightly. That was what love felt like. It was the first time I consciously understood what it felt like to be fully loved. I knew at that moment I would always own that feeling. My two or three year-old body knew that it had been imprinted.
It was quiet wrapped inside Dad’s hug. His breathing was rhythmic and calming. I remember matching my breaths to his and, as I listened, I felt its power. I would dissolve into him. It was the safest place imaginable.
I adored my Dad and my confidence sky rocketed whenever I got his attention which took some doing. But when I did, he would listen with his bright blue eyes and when I looked into them, I felt seen and heard. Whether sharing a story I wrote, or performing the lines from a memorized school soliloquy like “All the World’s A Stage,” or when we went on outdoor adventures together, which we often did, I felt myself shine under his proud gaze.
In my teen years, we would take long walks around Boston’s Back Bay up and down Marlboro Street and through the Commons and Public Gardens and his arm would tuck me into him tightly. During those high school years, I noticed I could match him stride for stride. I could feel how tall I’d become next to his 6 foot frame. And as I watched our long legs move in sync, I knew I was growing up.
Then Dad started distancing himself more and more. He was angry alot and it was harder and harder to get his attention as the years went on. His moods were volatile and his voice shook the house. His brutal yelling at my Mom sent me hiding in my room and turning up my music. He hated my Mom. He was always angry at her. He would take off for longer and longer walks slamming the front door on his way out. I worried he wouldn’t come back. Our special sweet loving times were harder to steal.
But still, somehow we managed to find time together. I loved to escape with him. We took long bike rides, hikes, played tennis, sailed and skied. There was always plenty of conversation. We talked about the world, always debating something he had given me to read. In his music room he loved to share his favorite Aria or symphony which he played at full volume on his “Hi-Fi”
I waited for his affirmations and commentary to get a better read on who I was. My confidence blossomed with his nod and supportive smile. And, when he noticed my shortcomings, he shared them with me and it motivated me to work harder to overcome them. I wanted him to be proud of me.
When my Dad left my mom and remarried it was harder to find time with him. I was 19 and that’s when I started to have to “schedule” visits with him. We would talk on the phone often but I didn’t see him as much. I missed him. His new wife was unwelcoming and it made it hard to see him at his new home with her. But, when we did have our walks and our talks that delicious loving feeling would fill me to the brim and leave me longing for more of him.
My Dad continued to struggle with his moods and a darkness haunted him. I thought it was my Mom’s doing, but it was his soul that was restless. He struggled in business and each new venture as bright and exciting as it sounded from the start, did not end well. He tried his best to see his way out until one day he couldn’t.
Dad left a note on his last day. He was 68 years old and was listening to his beloved symphony in his car sipping a scotch. I’ve thought about that moment alot over these past 28 years. I never saw this coming, no one did. But then maybe somewhere deep inside I knew. I knew that those hugs were precious and each one lingered like it was the last one. I must have felt that deep in my bones. I felt so sad for him and of course for my loss that it had come to this. He’s missed so much of this beautiful life.
But, I can still feel my Dad’s love and think of him when I do the things we shared together. I feel his bright light shine inside me and hear his encouraging words when I float down the ski slopes, take a long walk and notice the nature everywhere. I am beyond grateful I can still feel the imprint of his hug and it comforts, and fills me with gratitude for all he gave me as I remember him.
Remembering my dad on the 28th anniversary of his passing this week.