Missing my Dad comes in waves right now. Sometimes I miss him till it hurts, other times I force myself not to think of him to avoid the pain. Today, it was as if my every thought was focused on him. Quinn and I headed off this morning for a busy day of diving. The water was quite choppy so I closed my eyes and tried to rest. Within minutes I felt as if I was sitting in the back of my Dads plane. The rumble of the engines, the wind gusts pushing you from side to side, the way the water lifted you up and then dropped you down leaving your stomach behind. As long as I kept my eyes closed I felt like I was flying with my Dad again. I remember the morning he passed away we were sitting around chatting and Dad was talking about how much I liked the plane. “Jenny Wren just cuddles up in the back and lets the plane rock her to sleep. She never gets worried, never gets sick, she loves being up in that plane with me”. I miss flying with my Dad so much, I’m glad today I was able to simulate that feeling again.
After a big boat ride we headed into the water for our first dive. We weren’t under the water for more than five minutes before we saw a huge shark swimming alongside of us. Somehow, I felt like if I turned around my Dad would be right there sharing that moment with me. We would be swimming through the water together, holding hands and pointing at all the magic we could see. A few months after my Dad passed Quinn and I decided to get scuba certified. I called to one company to inquire about their prices and when I told the lady my name she said, “Oh, is the second diver going to be your Dad Chuck”? I had no clue what she was talking about? How did she know me or my Dad? When I asked her what she meant she said almost a year ago my Dad called inquiring about getting scuba certified with his daughter. He mentioned we would be going to Hawaii that year and it was something we wanted to do together. Tears filled my mask as I thought of that conversation today. My Dad and I did talk about getting certified before Hawaii a couple times but I had no clue he had called around to look into it. I wish so badly we could have shared that together.
Today I could picture Dad swimming with me. In my mind I turned around and there he was, wearing his red swim shorts and for some reason his scars seemed very predominate. My Dad had quite a few scars all over his stomach from the robotics surgery they did to remove his cancer. Those scars always made me a touch uncomfortable. When I looked at his scars they seemed like a visible reminder of a separation between him and I. I never understood what cancer meant to my Dad. Typically he was an open book; with cancer he was more closed than I had ever known him to be. He never once divulged with me the depth of fear his cancer brought, he never spoke about the pain of his surgery, and although we discussed many of the consequences after the fact, there was a missing piece that was unspoken until he was treated. My Dad protected us from the details of his cancer, sometimes it was something I appreciated, sometimes it was something I resented. I wanted to understand what cancer meant to him but I did not, his scars reminded me of this. Those scars also were a symbol that my Dad was not untouchable like I had always believed. Each mark represented the deifying of cancer but they also represented the possibility of harm. I had always looked at my Dad as big and strong, as someone who was beyond the reach of harm but the scars reminded me that wasn’t the case; I hated them and loved them all at once. Today, when I pictured my Dad swimming beside me, I pictured his scars. As I got out of the water I began crying. The boat swayed me back and forth as memories filled my mind and tears filled my face. Suddenly a pod of dolphins began dancing around us and I was filled with gratitude as a huge smile of wonder filled my face. I silently whispered a prayer: “Thank-you God for allowing me the room to feel through my pain, thank-you for inviting me to grieve without timelines or judgment, thank-you for continually showing me beauty every time my heart aches, thank-you for reminding me this life is still full of so much good. Thank-you.”