Today is Labor Day and I can’t help but remember you taking me to the Labor Day parade in Windsor. You always pushed me through the crowd to the front so I could see. I loved the marching band, as the pounding of the drums filled my chest with excitement. That was many years ago and one of my few memories of you. Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to really get to know you. Due to circumstances that I don’t understand, you chose, for the most part, to be an absent parent. I don’t know what happened between you and mom, and I don’t want to judge, as I am aware that there are always two sides.
At eight years old I lived with you for one year. What I recall most was your great sense of humor – always joking with me and teasing. Friday was our special day. After you returned home from work we would jump on the bus and go downtown where you would buy me at least one storybook. One week it would be Cinderella?the next, Pinocchio?leaving me with quite an enviable collection of books. This is how you fueled my lifelong love of books. During the year with you I missed Mom terribly, but I loved having my own dad in my life. I learned quickly that you were not comfortable with displays of affection. Perhaps due to your English background? Whatever the reason, you rarely hugged me and only occasionally gave me a peck on the cheek.
That year passed quickly and I ended up back with mom. I don’t remember the circumstances of my leaving you. Not even sure how my clothes and toys were transported to mom’s. Maybe it was a traumatic event, maybe you cried, maybe I cried. I really don’t know.
Through the years I infrequently visited you at your apartment. It was not a warm welcoming place, but I believe you tried to make me feel comfortable. You often had a bottle of beer nearby, but I don’t recall you being intoxicated, or possibly I couldn’t tell because I didn’t know you that well. During our visits you sat on the chair and I on the sofa. The television played in the background to fill the silent pauses as you asked me all the superficial questions that you would ask someone you hardly knew. What’s new? How is school? How is your sister? For which I often gave one-word answers. In spite of the awkwardness I looked forward to our visits because you were my dad. We were part of each other, as evident by our short big toe, wavy hair, and blue eyes. We never discussed Mom; I sensed you would have been uncomfortable if I were to mention her. I wasn’t even sure if my siblings visited you, we never discussed it. Feelings and thoughts hung in the air like a heavy fog. We were not like a real family, just acquaintances.
When I got married you didn’t attend my wedding, and I never asked why. But I didn’t feel comfortable with anyone else giving me away, so I never walked down the aisle. We visited each other a few times after I was married, although the awkwardness prevailed. Unfortunately, there wasn’t to be enough time for us to change this situation. Shortly after the birth of my daughter, you passed away, without ever having met her.
Your funeral was a surprisingly emotional experience for me, as the opportunity was gone to be any more than what we were to each other. I still miss you.
Love, your daughter.
Barbara Godin is a graduate of AU and writes the “Dear Barb” column. She lives in London, Ontario with her husband, two dogs, and one cat.