It's complicated. Even when I look at friends who seem to have very normal relationships with their dads I'm sure there must be a story in there that makes it complicated. Or maybe not, maybe their relationships are picture postcard worthy and I'm a little jealous.
My dad died three years ago this summer but it's been much longer than that since I've said Happy Fathers Day to him as he had Alzheimers for four or five years before that. In a way it was a relief to stop sending him cards and gifts because I was never quite sure what to say. It wouldn't be the truth to say "You've always been the greatest Dad!" No dad is. And my dad was complicated.
Being older and wiser now and having worked hard to understand why my dad was the way he was, I knew he did the best he could with what he had. Right before he started his downhill slide into Alzheimers I got a chance to ask him about his father and mother and stepmother and about his real life growing up. It was not pretty for him and I finally saw him for what he really was deep down: a scared little boy. I'm sorry I couldn't know that or even understand it until it was just about too late to have a changed relationship with him. And even though he's gone, I am still working to have a good relationship with him in my heart. I'm human too and there is still lots of work to do there.
I learned lots of good things from my dad, directly and indirectly. I'm glad I learned to swim as young as I did and to be on a team for a long time. I'm glad I learned how to fly, for that short little while. I didn't get the benefit of his love for music, like Dor did. But that came from not living with him, which in the long run is just fine. It's funny, I can tell you with great certainty all the personality traits I've picked up from my mom, but with my dad it's not so easy. I know for sure I got his chin, his thumbs and the Rivas Big Toe. There are time when I'm being stubborn and a know-it-all and I think, "Oh, that's the part of dad that made me cringe, I have to stop that." And there are times when I'm trying to tell a good story and wish I could do it as well as Carlos did. I know he was a voracious reader and that is something I am as well and I'm so glad.
Do I miss him? That's a tough one. I wish we had had more time to get to know each other with me as a grown up and having understood him better. But I am grateful we had a small window of understanding. I know he loved me very much. I know it because he told me often. I also know he was very proud of me because he told me directly and because he bragged about me to strangers on airplanes or at movie theaters and then told me about that. I have no doubt about those things.
Dad, I hope you are somewhere enjoying a good round of golf, a nice sail around a beautiful island and listening to your favorite music.