9 years. As of the 14th, it's been nine years since you've gone off to that yet-to-be-definitively-named-or-even-proven-to-exist-place over yonder. Is it the beyond, da? Is there somewhere beyond where I am living and breathing? Are love and memories truly bridges that link the gulf that separates us? Or is there nothing?
Momma is doing well, da. She's back in school, slowly but surely taking steps toward the EdM she gave up on getting the moment she realized that life grew inside of her. My life. Did you ever feel guilty, da. as I sometimes do? Momma gave up her dreams and a career of her own to become your devoted wife and my loving momma. Oh, she has told me time and time again that her dream of being a mom--my mom--is far stronger and much more important than her dream of being a teacher. She did teach me well; I wouldn't have been the successful young woman I am today without her by my side. But still...I feel sad whenever I think about all those lost years and missed opportunities.
I think I understand you now, da. It's weird how it is in retrospect that I see who you are with clarity. When you didn't shower me with hugs and kisses as a child (like mom did, and still does) or show me much affection, it wasn't because you didn't love me; it was because you never really knew how. But you tried, da. I see that not. You may not have always said "I love you," but you expressed it in your own way. It was in the way you preferred to tell me non-Disney bedtime versions of fairy tales over the phone; you wanted me to know different sides to every story, and to search for my own truth. Your love was in the way you insisted that I take martial arts classes instead of the voice lessons momma wanted. It wasn't because you wanted me to be the son you always wanted but momma never gave birth to; it was because you wanted me to be able to protect myself in times when you could not.
Once in a while I go over your old letters and your old Filofax. The pages are dog-eared, tear-stained, and some are yellowed with age. Ink's faded on some passages, and it's difficult to figure out if you went to visit Dr. Shen for an EKG or if you kicked the shin of some dude named EG. But no matter. I've memorized your words and held them close.
You've been gone for about a third of my life and you've missed well over half of my life because, well, the Constitution and safety of our country had to come first. But in some ways, those lost years don't matter anymore. I love you, da, and because love is alive, you've grown and changed with me through the years even if you'll always be on the edge of 64 and 2002.
I'll be seeing you again, da. And when I come rushing into your arms, I will once again be that pudgy, pig-tailed little girl with the lacy dress and binoculars, demanding, "Spin me again, daddy! Spin me again!" Someday, I'll dance with you again.