I remember the phone call. My sister-in-law was the the one that called me about 11 p.m. I was already asleep. It was three years ago tonight. I offered to make the call to two of my other two sisters who had not yet been called.
Our father died that night. He had just had his 83rd birthday a little over three weeks earlier.
I had spoken to him for his birthday. It was the longest conversation that we had in well-over 40 years ago. It lasted for nearly 20 minutes. Through the years, the birthday calls lasted about two or three minutes.
There were decades that passed in our lives with little communication between us. Oh, there were the obligatory phone calls, holiday cards he signed as “Neil,” and we saw one another five or six times in those four decades.
I always tried to be a “good daughter,” to mend fences, and always told him that I loved him, but always seemed to run up against a brick wall. I could not seem to break through, and he never seemed to be interested in helping to knock down the walls. I never did quite understand the reasoning behind it, and it is never something he ever cared to share.
At one point many years ago, I knew that I could no longer hold onto a fantasy of a father-daughter relationship that I wanted. It was when I finally was able to let go and forgive the hurts of the past.
Back in June 2012, a few days after my surgery after my cancer diagnosis, my father called me in the hospital. I was still dopey from morphine, but I remember him saying, “You tell that cancer to leave my baby alone!”
I remember little more about the conversation, but I remembering him offering the words in return, “I love you, Coral.” I had not heard those words in several decades.
When we spoke for his birthday, we spoke of music, health, and a bit more. It was a pleasant call, and he once again surprised me. He offered, “I love you, Coral,” before I had the chance to say it first.
“I love you, Coral.”
These were the last words I heard my father speak to me. They were also the last words I spoke to him. He passed away three weeks later.
Though decades passed and what might have been in a family never came to fruition, I am forever grateful for the two calls that helped to mend the many years of silent pain between us. My only regret is that we did not have more years to explore together.
I love you, Dad, and hope that you are resting in peace.
From (what you called),
Your #1 Daughter