While my momma began and ended each day with an "I love you, baby!" punctuated with hugs and kisses, proof of my da's love came in the form of books, magazines, and puzzles. He worked for the government and was away for most of the year. He always began his letters with "My Darling Wife and Daughter" and signed off with "All My Love, Ronald" but other than that, "I love you" didn't flow easily from his lips. Growing up, I felt like being a husband and father were second only to his love for the United States.
Oh, I knew he loved us. I could feel it deep down. But when you're a kid who's constantly teased about "not really having a dad," every missed birthday and forgotten holiday begin to pile up as evidence that the love set aside for you isn't enough.
After my da's funeral, a friend of his from work walked up to me and told me how much I looked like my da, but with my mom's darker eyes. He said that my da was always talking about me, about how proud he was that even as a young girl, I showed strong convictions. "Nobody's robot," he said. "My daughter will bow down to no man!"
Da's friend began to walk away, but stopped to say, "I'm honoured to have seen you grow up in pictures and photos." He must've seen the confused look on my face because he explained, "Ron's desk was filled with pictures of you growing up. He even framed some of your letters, little poems, and drawings, and put them on the wall."
I never knew he did that. Never knew he kept my scribbles and finger painting experiments.
But now I know.
I know just how much he loved me in his own way.