Rounding the corner to my 18th year of life has been quite the whirlwind of emotions. I have made it this far; but how far will I go? What is important to remember, and what would the future me be better off forgetting? Among all of the questions however, I have found an overwhelming amount of answers. Maybe too many for my own good, at times.
Most of the questions we have in our teens years, are, presumably answered by our own trial and error. Unfortunately, nobody is truly capable of warning us of the dangers we will set for ourselves ahead. Most likely, we will repeat our parents mistakes; we will say and do the same exact things that all young adults did before us (but good luck getting them to admit it). We will go on through life believing that we have all the answers already; until, one day, we realize we don’t. That will be the day that we turn back to those who were once like us; those who partied and made the wrong choices but will never admit it. And our parents and grandparents, and for some like me, great-grandparents will fill in those question marks with wise answers. They have lived our days already, and believe me, they had the same questions too.
As someone who spent their entire life running away, I find myself lost in the past quite often. For many years I wondered what it would be like to have a dad. I’d bask in the realm of imaginary childhood memories, and I’d piece together the person I could have been today. Most of all though, I would imagine asking my father the questions that accumulated throughout my life.
In the movies, I would see little girls. They were much too young to sit up front, but they were always comfortably seated in the passenger side nonetheless. The wind would toss their beautiful long hair as they glanced at their father endearingly. It was always at this point in the film that the solemn and cherishable fatherly advice would be graced upon the daughter. These car rides were always the best and worst part of the movie for me, because they were the moments I dreamed of all my life, but would never experience.
As each year passed, my family fell apart more and more. By the time I was fifteen I had lost my mom (she didn’t die, she is just gone from my life), and I was separated from my two younger brothers. I met my biological father, and shortly after beginning to build a relationship together, he left me again. I never felt enough love or trust for my biological father to ask him the questions only a Dad could answer…so I didn’t; and they built and built.
At fifteen, I fell in love. I mean, I really fell head-over-heels madly in love with a handsome gentleman named Carmine. After almost a year, we got engaged in the very same place that we met! What I didn’t realize when I fell in love was that I fell for every part of Carmine, including his family, whom always welcomed me with open arms and gave me all the love they possibly could. God had quite interesting plans for Carmine and myself, and shortly after getting engaged we moved across the country to Florida, to move in with his parents.
Carmine’s dad (whose name is also Carmine) has always been a ball buster. He is a trouble maker and an instigator; just like me. We clicked the minute we met, and we have always had a strong unspoken bond. After moving in with his dad, we only got even closer. I don’t drive so he would often drop me of at work, and I began to look forward to our sunrise drives more than anything else in the day. We would stop at the gas station, see our friend Bob, and be on our way with coffee in hand. I loved our morning routine, and so did Dad.
One day, as I was getting home from work, I walked in and yelled “Carmine, I brought you your favorite, a double fudge cookie!” and I’ll never forget the words that came out of his mouth at that moment. He sat up from the couch, turned around, and stared at me with a tough-yet-sweet look in his eyes. “Whats with all this ‘Carmine’ nonsense?!” he barked (as he quite often does). Confused, I responded “well, what am I supposed to call you…?”. “Dad” he said. And even though fireworks were going off on the inside, I just smiled, gave him his cookie and said “Okay, Pops. You got it.” and walked into my bedroom.
I had thrown around the use of “Pops” or “Dad” here and there but it was by no means a regular thing; it was more experimental than anything. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, and I didn’t want to make Carmine’s parents uncomfortable either. Yet, here I was, on a Tuesday night covered in cake flour from work, beaming with pride that this old man wanted me to call him Dad.
From then on, our morning rides were different. Almost magical. After all these years with unanswered questions, God gave me the father I always needed and I didn’t waste one second taking advantage of it. I must have asked him so many questions that he wanted to duct tape my mouth shut but he didn’t. He didn’t even ask why I inquired about his childhood dreams and plans, he just answered me.
Fast forward to last Thursday evening. It was muggy and hot, but the sky was absolutely breathtaking, so I cracked my window anyways. As the sun touched down on the earth and the wind tangled my hair, I found comfort knowing that this was my father-daughter-movie-moment. This was the day I waited my whole life for, and I was ready for it.
“Dad?” I spoke half confidently half nervously. “What is the one piece of information that you need to pass on (to me) in this life? What is the key to success?”
I looked over to the driver side and Pops was thinking. I mean, he was really thinking. I know when he is searching for just the right thing to say because he takes his time, and he puckers his mouth on his chewing tobacco like it helps him focus. He kept his eyes locked on the road even as I pressed him with my yearning stare, and he said to me “always be honest with yourself.”
I don’t think there is an emotion to describe this milestone in my life. It is a moment that my old man will likely forget, but I will cherish it forever. This, the day that I unlocked the secret to life, success, and happiness, will live forever in my heart and mind. Thank you for being my father, and loving me like your own Old Man. God was keeping you for me all of this time.
Having a Dad means knowing that one day, this person will live on through you. To be able to take this one answer from him, the most important thing he will ever pass on to me, was worth waiting more than a thousand years for. There is something about the safety of a father that makes you feel like they hold the answers to every question in the universe. And suddenly, once I asked this one, crucial question, the other ones didn’t matter so much anymore. I worry less, and I live more. Dad gave me freedom in this moment that will inhabit my soul until the end of time.