Today my dad is turning fifty, and I wanted to write a little about why I love him so much.
Some of you know that my best friend died while I was a junior in high school. Which sucked, majorly. One thing I really liked about my late friend was that I could be myself around him. I didn’t realize until about a year after he was killed that I have depression and anxiety, but I think the symptoms had already started to manifest themselves before I was diagnosed. This friend would always make sure I was included on group inside jokes. He understood when I was grumpy and didn’t want to talk much (probably because he got that way a lot, too). I would call him when my boyfriend was out of town, because he understood that loneliness. And then, dear Readers, he was gone.
I was seventeen. It seemed like I would never be able to really move on from it. To be sure, I still have an Andrew-shaped hole in my heart, but it doesn’t hurt as often as it used to. I felt like I had lost all my friends (I had been dumped the month before), and I didn’t know who to turn to. And because I had been pretty involved in my boyfriend during the first part of high school, I had kind of drifted away from my parents.
That spring, I found a friendship with my father that had never existed so strongly before. He had lost his brother in a freak accident about a decade previously, and he was always there to talk about how sucky I felt. Really, Readers. At that point, I hadn’t become suicidal yet, but I was filled with that awful, depressive numbness that follows shock and desertion. He would meet me on the couch many nights and just listen and hold me and tell me how to move forward. Dad, don’t deny it; it’s true.
Eventually, these talks morphed into watching TV shows together, some he owned and some on Amazon. The first show he introduced me to is still my favorite (Fringe), and we watched all five seasons together on that couch, even though he had already seen all of them. He made sure that I caught on when something significant or interesting went down, and he even provided me with details about different scenes and actors on the show. Fringe made me feel better because it helped me realize that other people know how frightening and painful life can be (is), and I felt (feel) like I’m almost in the Fringe family.
And so my father became the friend that made sure I was included.
I changed a lot during high school. Both my parents noticed a difference. I became more bitter, dark, sarcastic, and, I would argue, crude. Gone was the Maney that believed in “happily ever after” (I’m still working on that, to be truthful). In a lot of ways, it made them uncomfortable. I’m sure that they, like me, missed the innocent, shining, cheerful Maney. But I dealt with it, and so did they. They got used to my new-found introversion, my sardonic comments, and how some days I wouldn’t be kind to anyone. My dad especially would approach me with sentiments like, “I can see you’re not feeling well today, and I just want you to know I noticed and that I’m going to give you some space.” To be honest, those words would always bother me at the time, but the next day I would look back and realize that he loved me, no matter how much of a jerk I was being. Not only did he love me, but he was trying to understand.
And so my father made sure I was left alone sometimes, but that I still felt just as loved.
Well, during high school I realized I could probably not handle moving out for college just yet. I decided to go to a close-ish university and live at home with my parents. Some time passed and recently I have moved away to go to my dream university. I’m no longer at home. But both of my parents insist that I call them if I ever feel down and need some support and comfort. Since my dad is more into texting, on days when I don’t really want to talk, I’ll just shoot him a text, and he always responds. Just the other day I texted him something like, “Feeling depressed,” and he responded with, “Hang tough…” etc. I know he gets it, because he deals with the same kind of crap every day.
And so my father still listens when I need advice or help or just the reassurance that someone cares.
So, Dad, I hope when you read this in your inbox in your little smart phone, you know that I love you. And you are one of my best friends. And right now I’m really missing you, and tears are kind of swimming against my eyeballs.
And happy birthday.