(This is my father’s day gift from my daughter, Jessie Remington Henry. I sat in hotel restaurant yesterday crying in my eggs as I read this on my smartphone . . . more than a thousand long miles from her. If you read, perhaps it will make you feel better about the resilience of children and the power of love. I do not believe my posting this requires any further explanation. May your father’s day be as special as her words made mine.)
The Truth About Being a Daughter
by Jessie Remington Henry
I have no memory of my parents ever being together. I only have images that I have conjured up in my mind or created from photographs that lay in a white shoebox under my bed. It seems that it has only been in the past few years, after entering my twenties, I have longed for a memory of the two of them. That I have started to wonder what it was like when they met. Where I came from. How I came to be. I think that whatever psychological armor your body builds for you as a child to protect you from the things you are too young to handle, begins to dissipate when you grow older and wondering where you came from and who you are is not a choice but a thought that stares you in the face every morning and whispers at you while you fall asleep at night.
I’m fortunate. It turns out that the armor I needed when I was a child… I don’t need it anymore. The truths of the past aren’t all too much for me to handle. I didn’t lose one of my parents tragically to an accident or a disease. Neither of them were a victim of an abusive marriage. I didn’t have a parent that abandoned me for bigger and better dreams. Me, I’m just a result of something that tried. Something that just wasn’t quite right. This simple truth isn’t always easy but I also understand that I am not a victim of divorce but a daughter who is far luckier than many.
When I tell people I haven’t lived close to my dad since I was two, I usually am met with a look of pity and an “I’m so sorry, that must be so tough.” I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that I wish I could see my dad every day or every week and that my greatest fear is that I won’t have spent enough time with him in the end. But the truth is, seeing my dad less makes our time together all the more precious. My days spent with him are special and I am sure to soak in every minute of it. I am sure to take in every hug, every laugh, every story he ever tells me, and every lesson to be had. I’ve learned this from him. From the time I was a little girl and would hop on a plane from the Mid-West to Texas to come and stay for the summer, he was sure that he was going to make every minute of everyday count. He was sure to make me his first priority. This, more than the time itself, is what I needed from my dad. Though we lived our lives thousands of miles away from each other, I never doubted his love for me. Every Sunday when the phone rang, I knew it would be him. He would read books over a tape recorder and mail them to me so I could listen a long as he read to me. Sometimes, I think to myself how different our relationship might have been if my parents did stay together. I would have never gotten all of that alone time with him. We would have never gotten to take road trips just the two of us and we would have never gotten to go on adventures together.
For all of these things, I am so grateful. I am grateful that I have my father’s mouth and cheeks and that when he tells me he sees his mother in my eyes, I light up inside. The truth is, I’m not ashamed or hurt by my parent’s divorce but proud of where I came from and the influence he has had on me. The truth is I am the luckiest girl in the world to share the love that I do with my father. The truth is I wouldn’t trade any cookie cutter family for mine in the whole entire world.