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The Promise: A Dream Fulfilled
There is an old saying, “Love doesn’t make the world go ‘round; love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” If we are lucky, we grow up sharing love with the people we call our family. As the years pass, together, we experience the emotions that strengthen and deepen our bond: joy and laughter during happy occasions, and sympathy and tears during sorrowful ones. And, when one of our family members is no longer with us, the strength of a lifelong bond that once held us together is expressed by the depth of our loss, in the pain and heartache we endure, because an irreplaceable piece of our human tree is no longer there.
An Ominous Day in March
I was reminded of this one day in March, nearly fifteen years ago. I received an urgent phone call at work, and as I took off my headset and walked to the nearest phone, an eerie feeling straddled me. I was immediately reminded of the history of bad omens that had occurred in the month of March, “beware the Ides of March.” The distant call came from almost 2500 miles away. My youngest sister, Angela, was on the line. For a moment, there was silence on the other end. And, when I finally heard her voice, I knew that my premonition was right. My negative thoughts had become my reality.
“Is everything alright?” I questioned cautiously, expecting the worst.
“He’s gone,” she said, tearfully.
“Who?” I asked as I braced myself for her response. But she kept speaking as if she hadn’t even heard me. I waited patiently in desperate silence.
“He passed away a couple of hours ago,” she continued, in a soft, exhausted voice, almost like a whisper. “They did everything they could to save him.”
“What happened?” I asked, somberly.
“Dad had a heart attack.”
After I hung up the phone, it was impossible to continue to work and to conceal my anguish, all at the same time. I could barely explain my circumstances to my manager. And, it was a relief when he agreed to my request to leave early, so I could escape the intrusive stares and questioning eyes.
“How could dad be gone, so soon?” I thought. He was only 62. He had lots of mileage left, certainly, at least 10 more years. I didn’t see him every day, because we were separated by thousands of miles, but we spoke on the phone, often. He had high blood pressure, and a family history of diabetes, but he still seemed healthy. Suddenly it hit me; we hadn’t spoken in the past few weeks, maybe even longer. It seemed odd, now, that he hadn’t called me. Now, I really wished that I had called him. I meant to. But, unfortunately, there was no going back. I was devastated by my loss, by our family’s loss, which was totally unexpected, and it increased the intensity of the pain I felt. Now, there were questions that I would never receive the answers to. And, I had lost my opportunity to say goodbye, forever. I felt a melancholy emptiness inside.
An Unexpected Loss
As I pulled out of the parking lot, my anguish intensified, and a single tear rolled down my right cheek. By the time I reached the freeway on-ramp, a few blocks away, my red eyes were soaking wet, so I dabbed my drenched face with a tissue from my purse, and thought about pulling over, or getting off at the next exit, but changed my mind. Alone now, I was trapped by my inescapable grief.
So I wept. I had lost my dad, without a single warning. It was almost unbearable to accept the reality of knowing that there was nothing I could ever do to bring him back. My heart was scorched by the loss of a man that I respected and loved so deeply, and my tears reflected that loss. As my wellspring of tears began to pour down more profusely, they felt like a torrential rain, pouring down from a very dark, and gloomy sky. My tears were my only companion, now, in my sorrowful time of need; and they remained with me for a very long while, as I traveled the long, quiet stretch of freeway on my way home.
I remember when I was a little girl. My dad seemed to tower over me like a giant; one who I didn’t want to anger or disobey. He was strict but caring. And, sometimes, when he was upset with me, he would stop speaking to me. His silent disappointment hurt more than any punishment ever did.
In some ways, during my childhood, and even beyond, he remained a mystery to me, for there were things about him that I would never know, maybe because I was too naïve to ask, or too preoccupied, with my own childish interests, to care. Regretfully, I didn’t appreciate the importance of getting to know more about him and the life he led before I was born. I believed, erroneously, that we had time for all of that. I took it for granted that he would be around forever. Isn’t that always the plan? But there is a higher Source and bigger plans in the universe that trivialize our mortal intentions. After all, tomorrow is not promised to any of us. I am certain of it, now.
A Dream Deferred
His name was James. He was the eldest of his siblings, a brother, William, and two sisters, Annie and Mary. Both of his parents had died when he was young, and he had unselfishly relinquished his dream of becoming a professional football player, so he could take care of them.
Fortunately, he got a second chance, many years later, when his two sons followed in his footsteps. For years, he was as committed to my brothers’ dreams as they were. He attended every football game that he could, and listened to tape recordings of those same games, endlessly. He even clipped newspaper articles about them, as he followed their journey, from junior high to high school, and on to college. And, even when they made it to the pros, short-lived though it was.
A Long-Standing Tradition
Like a lot of men his age, he was old-fashioned. Consequently, he always insisted that marriage was in my future plans. Sometimes, when we were at home and he wanted a snack from the kitchen, he would call me from his favorite spot on the sofa and say, “If you get me a bowl of ice cream, I’ll dance at your wedding.” I honored his request, dutifully, but I protested silently to myself. What wedding was he talking about? I wasn’t even old enough to get married. Was he kidding? And, any thoughts, good or bad, of seeing him dance, at the time, weren’t even on my radar.
An Honorable Military Career
He had retired an Army first sergeant and had served two tours in Vietnam. His honorable military career lasted more than twenty years, which meant our family had not put down roots in one place for very long. He was stationed in various places in the states, including Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri and West Point, New York. There were also several trips abroad. I was only seven-years-old when we visited Germany on one of our two trips there.
It was both fascinating and frustrating to hear a foreign language for the first time. The sounds were unusual, because I didn’t understand them, so I was more comfortable in the familiarity of my own. But, as I gradually picked up some phrases, I became more enthralled the more I attempted to use them. One German phrase I cherished learning, because of its simplicity and depth of meaning, was “Ich Liebe Dich.” It means, “I love you.” By this time, I wasn’t quite in love with the language, but I had developed a great sense of admiration and pride whenever I was able to use it.
Memories of Good Times
As I grew up over the years, I can recall fun-filled weekends spent picking crab apples with my brothers and sisters, going on trips to the Ozarks, where dad taught us how to fish, or day-dreaming about what tomorrow would bring, while I sat in the crowded backseat of the family sedan on long, weekend car rides, while the wind gently caressed my face, as I stared, purposefully, out the window.
Nearly fifteen years have come and gone, since my dad died. And the quotidian activities of my life go on, but I still hear his voice speaking to me, quietly, in the background. If I hear a memorable song that stirs my emotions, it awakens in me my cherished memories of him, not far below the surface. In moments of quiet solitude, I ponder how different life would be if he was still here. We would talk on the phone more often and I would visit him more often. I would tell him I love him more often. Had I ever said it enough when he was still alive?
I love you, dad. I always will.
I miss hearing my dad’s caring voice and funny laugh, and seeing his beautiful smile. I miss his strength and encouragement, especially, on those days when life has been unkind and I need his strong, wide shoulders to cry on. Even my accomplishments are a little less rewarding, now, since he is not here to say, “I’m proud of you,” or “That’s my girl!” And in these moments most, the pain I feel cannot be measured.
An Aha Moment
Surprisingly, we were alike in ways I had never appreciated or stopped to think about. When I recently attended my niece’s wedding, I was painfully reminded of that. I hadn’t seen Natalie, my sister’s only daughter, since she was a child. At the reception, as I sat next to my mother, I gazed admiringly, at her and her father, Oz, during their father-daughter dance. The loving gaze in their eyes brought back memories of my dad and the words that he had said to me, many years before. Suddenly, a question arose as I sat next to my mother, thinking in retrospect.
“Mom,” I began, “I don’t remember ever seeing you and dad dance, when I was growing up. Was dad a good dancer?”
“Yes. He liked to swing-out. And, he was confident, even if we were the only couple on the dance floor,” she said, proudly.
My dad had been a great dancer. Why hadn’t I known that? But, knowing hurt even more, now, because we had shared something that I hadn’t even appreciated when I had a chance to. In that very moment, I would have given almost anything to dance with my father. His words, from many years gone by, lingered in my mind. “If you get me a bowl of ice cream, I’ll dance at your wedding.” I was sorry, so very sorry for the both of us. And deep inside I wished for another chance.
A Promise FulFilled
Decades have come and gone since dad first uttered his promise to me, but it almost seems like yesterday. Although his promise died along with him that day, I will forever wish for what might have been. In my dream, I am at my reception and the music begins for the father-daughter dance. My dad asks, “May I have this dance?” I reply, “Yes, dad,” and we step onto a spacious dance floor. I am dressed in an ethereal, cream-colored, chiffon gown, adorned with delicate pearls and hand-sewn lace. My train is long and luxurious, as it drapes behind me. My dad is clothed in a fine, black tuxedo, tailored to perfection, and a bow tie. His black patent-leather shoes gleam and reflect the beauty of the crystal chandelier above. He places my hands in his, and I look up and gaze into his deep loving eyes. He smiles and I smile back at him. Then, we dance the Viennese waltz, gracefully around the dance floor, just he and I. Our movements are smooth and fluid, like water flowing down a majestic waterfall. At some point, my feet no longer feel like they touch the ground, and we are quickly transported to an unbelievable make-believe place of fantasy, “where time stands still and dreams come true.” As the angelic, classical music continues, we dance on soft, fluffy, white clouds, while billions of brilliant, heavenly stars twinkle endlessly overhead. It is a magical place and a moment in time that I will treasure forever, because in this very special place and at this very special moment, the promise that my dad had made, more than fifteen years before, is finally realized.
The Most Epic Father-Daughter Wedding Dances
- The Most Epic Father-Daughter Wedding Dances [Video]
Check out the most epic father-daughter wedding dances.
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