This morning, I bought the plane tickets for my family reunion in Colorado. They came out to be rather expensive, and this would be because I irresponsibly waited until two weeks out to buy them. What did I do, you may ask? Well. I called my daddy, of course. He helped me find tickets almost two hundred dollars cheaper, and agreed to wait at the airport in Denver for almost two hours, so we can share a rental car. It’s been four years since the last time my dad and I traveled to Colorado together. To say that our relationship has been through some twists and turns since this time would be an understatement.
I vividly remember the day I broke my dad’s heart. I was 18 years old. He had just received word of a relationship I had kept hidden, which was by all accounts not a relationship he, or most normal people in general, wanted me to be in. I had previously imagined what it would be like if he ever found out, and this frightened me to no end. I imagined yelling and cursing and shunning and being banned to my room for life. You know how you can divorce family members? I wouldn’t have put this past him. So when he confronted me and informed me that he knew, I braced myself for the worst. Instead, he sat me down and had a conversation that has since been burned into my mind:
Dad: Have you….had sex with him? (I can’t imagine how painful this was for him to ask. My dad is a quiet and extremely private man, and to ask his own daughter this question probably about killed the man. )
Me: No. (An honest answer, which produced an inner but obvious sigh of relief from my dad.)
Dad: Do you love him? (Another question I couldn’t believe my dad was asking out loud. I could tell he didn’t want to know, but I think he felt he needed to. )
Me: I…um. Um. I don’t know.
Dad: Well, that’s good. That’s good. If you don’t know, then you don’t love him.
He then gently informed me that the relationship had to stop, that it was wrong, but that he loved me and that everything would be okay. My dad was talking to me not as a child who had done something extremely wrong, but as an adult who he knew was hurting incredibly. He could have easily chosen to disown me and look at my list of wrongs, but instead chose to see that I was feeling my very first broken heart. He had acted so cool about the whole thing, and I felt extremely relieved. Later my brother would tell me that my dad had privately asked him many questions about the situation, and while doing so, he had cried. I’ve never seen my dad cry. Not even at his daddy’s funeral. My dad doesn’t cry. He just doesn’t. I made my dad cry. It was worse punishment than yelling or screaming or grounding could have ever been.
Still, I didn’t listen. I thought I knew better and that love would conquer all. I felt that the relationship I was in was magnetic; a force to be reckoned with, and that nothing and nobody else really mattered. I knew that nobody else knew what they were talking about. I knew better. The conversation my dad and I had soon became a marker of the ‘befores’ in my life. It was before the moment I fell in love with the man I shouldn’t have. It was before my dad lost all trust and the ability to even look or talk to me. It was before I became a stranger in my own home. The truth that this guy and I never did have sex didn’t even matter anymore; My innocence was gone in a way much more powerful than physically. My dad didn’t see me as his little girl anymore.
Our relationship was strained long after I found out that everyone was right and the relationship I was in didn’t work out. Having a broken relationship with someone you love so incredibly much feels very more like a lifetime. We slowly began talking and hugging and saying our ‘I love you’s’ again, but it wasn’t quite the same. It wasn’t until the night of my wedding, when we had our father/daughter dance, that I felt our relationship shifting back to the way it was before. I beamed with pride when, mid-dance, he whispered, ” I am so proud of you.” I knew for certain that he was proud of so much more than me finding a good guy. He was proud that I was making good life decisions, that I had grown up, and that I wasn’t the same selfish girl I had been before. I was becoming the girl he knew and loved once again. We both became teary-eyed, and I responded with a sob, “That means everything to me.” And it did. Once again, I had made my dad cry. But this time, they were happy tears.
Through all of the twists and turns since Colorado in 2007, I’m happy to say that our relationship has come full circle and is now even stronger for Colorado 2011. And this truly does mean everything to me.